Once upon a time, three sages, who were also brothers, chose a riverbank to do penance. Their names were Ekata, Dwita and Trita. The clothes they washed every day used to dry in the sky without a clothesline lest they should drop and become soiled. One day a kite was carrying a female frog like I (the kite) carried a female mouse.
Ekata saw this and shouted at the kite, “Leave it, Leave it.”
At once his clothes drying in the sky dropped down to the ground.
When Dwita saw this, he shouted at the kite, “Don’t leave it, Don’t leave it” and soon his clothes also came down hurtling.
When Trita saw that the clothes of his elder brothers fell down, he thought it would be better not to say anything and remained silent. That is why it is better not to notice the happenings around and concentrate on self.
The sage Salankayana replied, “O foolish kite, your story has happened in the Age of Truth when even if you spoke to a wicked person you became a sinner. The clothes came down because the first two sages addressed the wicked kite. We are now living in the Age of Kali, an age in which everyone is a born sinner. In this age only those who commit a sin become sinners and not those who speak to sinners. Now, don’t waste my time. Disperse or face my curse.”
The kite flew away disappointed.
The female mouse then prayed Salankayana, “O sage, please give me shelter in your hermitage. Otherwise, some wicked bird will kill me. I will spend the rest of my life with whatever leftovers you choose to feed me with.”
The female mouse’s prayer moved the sage but he thought that if he took her home, people would laugh at him. So, he turned the mouse into a beautiful girl and took her home.
“What is this you have brought,” asked the sage’s wife. Where did you bring this girl from?”
“She is a female mouse. She needed protection from wicked birds. That’s why I turned her into a girl and brought her home. You will need to shower all care on her. I will make her a mouse again,” said the sage.
“Please don’t do that,” pleaded his wife, “You have saved her life and therefore you have become her father. I don’t have a child. Since you are her father, she becomes my daughter.” The sage accepted her plea.
The girl grew into a beautiful woman and became an eligible bride. Salankayana told his wife, “The girl has come of age. It is not proper for her to remain in our house. The learned have said,
He who keeps an eligible bride in his house
Forfeits a place in heaven. So do his ancestors.
“It’s all right. Look for a boy,” said his wife.
Salankayana immediately summoned the Sun and told him, “This is my daughter. If she is willing to marry you, get ready to marry her.”
He then showed the Sun to his daughter and asked her if she would marry him. She said that the Sun was very hot and she would prefer someone else. The sage then summoned the God of Clouds, the God of Wind and the God of Mountains. The girl rejected every one of them on one ground or the other.
Then the God of Mountains told the sage, “The most suitable candidate for your daughter is a mouse. He is more powerful than I am.”
The sage then turned her into a mouse and gave her away to a king of mice in marriage.
“That’s why,” Raktaksha resumed, “I want you know that a crow is a crow and cannot become an owl.”
Yet, disregarding Raktaksha’s warnings, the king’s men took away Sthirajeevi to their fortress not knowing that they were bringing ruin upon themselves and the king. Sthirajeevi thought on the way to his destination, “This man (Raktaksha) alone advised the king to kill me. Of all of the king’s men he alone knows statecraft. If they had heeded his word and killed me the king would have escaped disaster.”
When Sthirajeevi’s procession arrived at the entrance of the fortress, king Arimardana ordered his men to accommodate him in a comfortable place of his choice. But Sthirajeevi had other ideas. If he had to hatch a plan to kill the king, it was not possible within the fort because he and his movements would be constantly under watch. That would alert his hosts. So, he thought, it was better to be outside the fort.
He told the king, “My lord, I am grateful for your generosity. But I am a politician and belong to the enemy camp. Yet I am your devotee and faithful servant. It does not become of me to live inside the palace. I will stay at the entrance of the fort and every day sanctify my body with the dust of your feet.”
The king of owls accepted his request and let him stay where he wanted to. The king’s men took extraordinary care of his needs and very soon Sthirajeevi became as strong as a wrestler. Seeing Sthirajeevi’s new personality, Raktaksha told the king and other ministers, “I regard all of you as very unwise. Haven’t you heard the learned often repeating the words of the bird Sindhuka? The bird used to say, "“First, I am a fool. Then the hunter and then the king and his ministers.”
“How was that?” asked the ministers and Raktaksha began telling them the story of Sindhuka.