While Brahma-Datta was King in Banaras, a wealthy merchant in Raj-griha had a son. The son was married, but his wife bore him no children.
So the merchant’s family began to treat the girl with less and less respect. This woman is sterile,” they said. “She cannot bear any children and increase the family.” The girl was sad when she overheard her in-laws talking in this manner. She announced that she was pregnant to regain her prestige with them.
Then she asked her maid how a pregnant woman should behave and began to crave queer foods. She stuffed rags around her waist and presented herself like a child growing inside her. The merchant’s people were deceived by such appearances and thought the girl was pregnant. They began to treat her with great respect.
After a few months, the girl said to her husband, “Please send me to my people for the delivery of my child” The husband put her in a cart and gave her an escort of many servants and attendants.
On the way, one morning, she left the cart and went amidst the trees and bushes for her ablutions when she saw under a tree an infant who had been recently delivered. A caravan had passed that way earlier, and a poor woman travelling with it had given the child there and abandoned it because she was too poor to bring him up.
That infant was Bodhisatva. The merchant’s daughter-in-law was overjoyed at the sight of the radiant babe.
She called her maid, showed her the babe and said, “I shall announce that this is my child. You must support me by saying that you helped me with the delivery.”
She then removed the rags from around her waist, took the infant in her arms and went back to the cart. Everyone in her retinue thought that the infant was her own.
Since there was no more need to continue the journey, the cart turned back and returned to the merchant’s house in Raj-griha. The merchant and his people were pleased.
They named the child Nigrodha Kumar and brought him up with great affection.
On the same day Nigrodha was born, another merchant of Raj-griha had a son named Sakha Kumar, and a tailor had another called Pothrika. So the three boys were brought up together.
When they were old enough, they went together to Taksha- sila and studied there, Nigrodha meeting all the expenses of Pothrika all the time they were there.
In due course, the three boys completed their studies, bade goodbye to their teacher, and started on an educational tour of the country. They walked from one place to another till they reached the Kingdom of Banaras.
It fell dark before they could enter the city, and they slept under a tree near a temple outside the city.
Pothrika woke long before dawn and began to press the feet of Nigrodha, who was still sleeping.
Then a strange thing happened. Two cocks sat on the tree branches under which the youths slept. The cock on the upper limb let its dropping on the one sitting on the lower unit, and the second cock began to rail at the first for its audacity and said, “Know that I am no ordinary cock. He who eats me will gain ten thousand pieces. How dare you treat me as though I were an ordinary cock ?”
“I am no ordinary cock either,” replied the first cock, which was sitting on the higher branch. “Know that he who eats my fat will become King, the one who eats my breast will become Commander-in-Chief, and he who eats the flesh on my bones will become Treasurer.”
Pothrika, who heard the above exchanges climbed up the tree, caught the cock on the upper branch, and killed and cooked it. When the two others awoke, he gave the fat of the cock to Nigrodha, the breast to Sakha and ate the flesh on the bones himself.
Then he told them about the conversation of the cocks, and said, “Now Nigrodha will be King, and Sakha will be Commander-in-Chief, while I shall become Treasurer.”
Then they entered the city of Banaras.
The King of Banaras had died a week earlier, leaving no heirs to the throne, and it had been announced that a new King would be chosen. The three youths were not aware of this. That noon they were the guests of a Brahman, went to the Royal Park and lay down to rest under the shade of trees.
At that time, the ceremonial chariot bearing the King’s sword, shoes, headdress, umbrella and fan stopped near where the three young men were lying.
The Purohit got down from the chariot, saw the sleeping youths, examined their feet and found the lines of a ruler on Nigrodha’s feet. Then he ordered the gongs and symbols to strike up.
Hearing the noise, the three youths woke up. Nigrodha saw a large crowd and understood he was elected King of Banaras. At once, he appointed Sakha as his Commander-in-Chief.
Soon after he became King, Nigrodha said to Sakha, “Since we have obtained high positions here, it would be better for our parents to come and live with us. Go and fetch the parents of the three of us.”
“I will not go,” Sakha replied. “It is beneath my position to go on such errands.”
So Nigrodha sent Pothrika instead. Pothrika journeyed to Raj-griha and invited the parents of the three youths to come and live in Banaras. But the older adults refused, saying that they were pretty happy and contented where they were.
Pothrika returned to Banaras and went to Sakha’s house for food and rest after his journey. He told the servants, “I am Sakha’s friend. Inform him about my arrival.”
When Sakha heard that Pothrika claimed to be his friend, he was wild and ordered his servants to beat Pothrika and throw him out.
He had a grudge against Pothrika, who had given the fat of the cock to Nigrodha in preference to himself and enabled him to become King.
His servants beat Pothrika and sent him away.
After Pothrika’s departure, Sakha feared that Pothrika would go to the King and report against him. And he hastened to the King, hoping to prevent Pothrika by his presence from complaining against him.
But Pothrika did go to the King and complain about Sakha’s behaviour, though Sakha was present. Nigrodha heard about Sakha’s behaviour and became wild. “Pothrika is a selfless person,” he said to Sakha. “Though you have never done him a good turn in all your life, he gave you the heart of the cock so that you could become Commander-in-Chief. Instead of being grateful to him, you denied him as your friend and had him mercilessly beaten by your servants. Such an ungrateful man does not deserve to be a Commander-in-Chief. I shall dismiss you.”
“O, my friend,” Pothrika pleaded, “we have been friends since birth. Let us put up with the shortcomings of one another. Leave him alone.”
Nigrodha relented and let Sakha remain in his post. But he made Pothrika his Treasurer, a job that Pothrika was the first to hold and had never existed.