The Golden Goose
Once upon a time there lived a queen in the city of Benaras. Her name was Khema and she was the wife of King Bahuputtaka, which means ‘father of many sons’. One night, the Queen had a dream of a beautiful golden goose that spoke with great wisdom, almost as if he was a sage. She told her husband that she desperately wanted to see a bird just like the one that she had seen in her dream.
So the King asked his ministers to find out all that they could about a bird such as this. He was told that such a bird did exist but was extremely rare and difficult to find. They advised him to build a beautiful lake on the outskirts of Benaras so that he may attract such rare and lovely creatures to reside there. In this way the queen might have her wish.
Towards the north, on Mount Cittakuta, there lived about ninety thousand wild geese headed by a beautiful golden goose called King Dhatarattha. He got to hear of this exquisite lake that was surrounded by flowers and trees and had lovely water lilies and lotuses floating on the surface. The king had named this lake after his wife Khema and had invited all the birds to come and live on it, promising that none of them would ever be harmed. Corn was scattered on a daily basis in order to attract the birds.
So a couple of geese went up to their King and told him that they were quite tired of living up on the mountains and would like to see this wonderful lake where they had been promised food and protection.
The king agreed to their request and took the whole flock down south towards Benaras.
Meanwhile, at the lake the King had placed hunters all around in order to capture any golden goose that happened to pass by. So the next morning when the headhunter saw this flock of geese approaching he was very excited to see their golden leader. He immediately went about setting up a snare amongst the water lilies and lotuses, as he knew that the leader would definitely be the first to alight.
The whole flock came flying down in one mighty swoop and as expected it was the King’s foot that touched the water first. He was ensnared and could not escape. Seeing this the other geese flew into a panic and honked in distress. But none had the courage to try to free their king and so flew back to Mount Cittacuta for safety. All except one. He was the chief captain, Sumukha.
His King entreated him to fly to safety too, as he would surely be captured if he stayed by his side. But Sumukha replied that he would never desert his master in the face of danger and would either try to save him or die by his side.
At this point the head huntsman approached and as Sumukha saw him he decided to appeal to his compassion. The hunter asked the King how come he had not noticed the trap that was set. The golden goose replied that when one’s time was up it was no use to struggle against what was fated and one must just accept it. The huntsman was very impressed with his grace and wisdom. He then turned to Sumukha and asked why he had not fled with the other birds even though he was free to do so. Sumukha answered that this was his King, best friend and master and that he could never desert him even at the cost of his own life.
Hearing this the hunter realised that these were a couple of rare birds of great nobility. And were he to harm them, the gods would certainly punish him. Besides, he did not much care for his own King’s reward and decided to do the right thing and set them free. He told Sumukha that as he was ready to die for his King he would set them both free to fly wherever they may.
He then set loose the foot of the golden goose and washed the wound clean. And when he made an attempt to fix the dislocated muscle “lo behold”.. the foot was miraculously whole again as if it had never been hurt. Sumukha greatly blessed the hunter for his act of compassion and his King asked whether he had set the trap for himself or at someone else’s command. The hunter answered that he had done it on the orders of his own King. He then went on to narrate to them the whole story about the queen’s dream and her wish to see this rare golden goose.
On hearing this, the golden goose decided to go and meet the monarch, as he knew that the hunter would receive his reward. He had also heard about the wisdom and goodness of King Bahuputakka and thought that if he appeared out of his own free will, the monarch might allow him and his flock to come visit the lake. He therefore asked the hunter to take him to his King. The hunter advised him against it because he was worried that his monarch might imprison these two lovely creatures.
But the golden goose explained that just as they had been able to soften a hunter’s heart it should not be too difficult to do the same to a great and noble King. He asked him to do his duty and leave the rest to him.
So the hunter set out to go to the palace accompanied by these two noble, gorgeous creatures. Needless to say that the King and Queen were absolutely delighted to see these two beautiful birds. The King set them on a golden perch and fed them himself, with honey, grain and sweetened milk. Then he spent the whole night discussing kingship and all its duties with this King of Geese. The golden goose did his best to offer good advice and encouragement in accordance with his wisdom.
In the morning he thanked the King and Queen for their hospitality and friendship and flew back to his flock accompanied by his faithful friend and chief captain Sumukha.