Story of the Wonderful Mango Fruit.

ON the banks of the Kávéri there was a city called Tiruvidaimarudur, where ruled a king named Chakra-ditya. In that city there lived a poor Bráhman and his wife, who, having no children, brought up in their house a young parrot as tenderly as if it had been their own offspring. One day the parrot was sitting on the roof of the house, basking itself in the morning sun, when a large flock of parrots flew past, talking to each other about certain mango fruits. The Bráh-man's parrot asked them what were the peculiar properties of those fruits, and was informed that beyond the seven oceans there was a great mango tree, the fruit of which gave perpetual youth to the person who ate of it, however old and infirm he might be. On hearing of this wonder the Brahman's parrot requested permission to accompany them, which being granted, they all continued their flight. When at length they arrived at the mango tree, all ate of its fruit; but the Bráhman's parrot reflected: “It would not be right for me to eat of this fruit; I am still young, while my adopted parents, the poor Bráhman and his wife, are very old. So I shall give them this fruit, and they will become young and blooming by eating it.” And that same evening the good parrot brought the fruit to the Bráhman, and explained to him its extraordinary properties. But the Bráhman thought within himself: “I am a beggar. What although I should become young and live for ever or should die this very moment? Our king is very good and charitable. If such a great man should eat of this fruit and renew his youth, he would confer the greatest benefits on mankind. Therefore I will give this mango to our good king.”

In pursuance of this self-denying resolution, the poor Bráhman proceeded to the palace and presented the fruit to the king, at the same time relating how he had obtained it, and its qualities. The king richly rewarded the Bráhman for his gift and sent him away. Then he began to reflect thus: “Here is a fruit which can bestow perpetual youth on the person who eats it. I should gain this great boon for myself alone, and what happiness could I expect in such circumstances, without corresponding friends and subjects? I shall therefore not eat this mango fruit, but plant it care­fully in my garden, and it will in time become a tree, which will bear much fruit having the same wonderful virtue, and my subjects shall, every one, eat of the fruit and, with myself, be endowed with everlasting youth.” So calling his gardener the king gave him the fruit and he planted it in the royal presence. In due course of time the fruit grew into a fine tree, and during the spring season it began to bud and blossom and bear fruit. The king, having fixed upon an auspicious day for cutting one of the mango fruits, gave it to his domestic chaplain, who was ninety years old, in order that his youth should be renewed. But no sooner had the priest tasted it than he fell down dead. At this unexpected calamity the king was both astonished and deeply grieved. When the old priest's wife heard of her husband's sudden death, she came and prayed the king to allow her to perform sati with him on the same funeral pyre, which increased the king's sorrow; but he gave her the desired permission, and himself superintended all the ceremonies of the cremation.

King Chakraditya then sent for the poor Bráhman and demanded of him how he had dared to present a poisonous fruit to his king. The Bráhman replied: “My lord, I brought up a young parrot in my house, in order to console me for having no son. That parrot brought me the fruit one day, and told me of its wonderful properties. Believing that the parrot spoke truth, I presented it to your majesty, never for a moment suspecting it to be poisonous.” The king listened to the poor Bráhman's words, but thought that the priest's death should be avenged. So he consulted his ministers, who recommended, as a slight punishment, that the Bráhman should be deprived of his left eye. This was done accordingly, and on his return home, when his wife saw his condition, she asked the reason of such mutilation. “My dear,” said he, “the parrot we have fostered so tenderly is the cause of this.” And they resolved to break the neck of the treacherous bird. But the parrot, having overheard their conversation, thus addressed them: “My kind foster parents, everyone must be rewarded for the good actions or punished for the evil deeds of his previous life.* I brought you the fruit with a good intention, but my sins in my former life have given it a different effect. Therefore, I pray you to kill me and bury me with a little milk in a pit. And, after my funeral ceremony is over, I request you to undertake a pilgrimage to Banáres to clear yourself of your sins.” So the old Bráhman and his wife killed their pet parrot and buried it as directed, after which, overcome with grief, they set out on a pilgrim age to the holy city.

Meanwhile the king commanded his gardener to set guards over the poison-tree, and to allow no one to eat of its fruit; and all the inhabitants soon came to know that the king had a mango tree in his garden, the fruit of which was deadly poison. Now there was in the city an old washerwoman, who had frequent quarrels with her daughter-in-law, and one day, being weary of her life, she left the house, threatening to eat of the poison-tree and die. The young parrot who was killed for having brought the poisonous mango fruit was re-born as a green parrot, and was waiting an opportunity to demonstrate the harmless nature of the tree; and when he saw the old woman approach with a determination to put an end to her life by eating of its fruit, he plucked one with his beak and dropped it down before her. The old woman rejoiced that Fate sanctioned her death, and greedily ate the fruit, when, lo! instead of dying she became young and blooming again. Those who had seen her leave the house a woman over sixty years of age were astonished on seeing her return as a handsome girl of sixteen and learning that the wonderful transforma­tion was caused by the supposed poisonous mango tree. The strange news soon reached the king, who, in order to test the tree still farther, ordered another fruit of it to be brought and gave it to a goldsmith of more than ninety years of age, who had embezzled some gold which had been entrusted to him to make into ornaments for the ladies of the palace, and was on that account undergoing imprisonment.* When he had eaten the fruit, he, in his turn, became a young man of sixteen.

The king was now convinced that the fruit of this mango tree, so far from being poisonous, had the power of converting decrepit age into lusty and per­ennial youth. But how did the old priest die by eating of it? It was by a mere accident. One day a huge serpent was sleeping on a branch of the mango tree, and its head was placed over a fruit: poison dropped from its mouth and fell on the rind of that fruit. The gardener, who had no knowledge of this, when asked to bring a fruit for the priest, happened to bring the one on which the poison had fallen, and the priest having eaten it died. And now the king caused proclamation to be made throughout his king­dom that all who pleased might come and partake of the mango fruit, and everyone ate of it and became young. But King Chakraditya's heart burnt within him at the remembrance of his ill-treatment of the poor Bráhman, who had returned with his wife from Banáres. So he sent for him, explained his mistake, and gave him a fruit to eat, which having tasted, the aged Bráhman became young, and his eye was also restored to him. But the greatest loss of all, that of the parrot who brought the fruit from beyond the seven oceans, remained irreparable.

“Thus, my lord,” continued the aged minister, Manuniti, “it behoves us not to act precipitately in this affair of Bodhaditya, which we must carefully sift before expressing our opinion as to the punishment he may deserve at your majesty's hands.”

When Manuniti had concluded his story of the wonderful mango fruit, King Alakésa ordered his four ministers to approach the throne, and then, with an angry countenance, he thus addressed Bodhaditya: “What excuse have you for entering my bedchamber without permission, and thus violating the rules of de­cency?” The First Minister humbly begged leave to relate to his majesty a story of how a Bráhman fed a hungry traveller, and had afterwards to endure the infamy of having caused that traveller's death, and on King Alakésa signifying his consent, thus began: