The Foolish Pundit

The King of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga was a great patron of the arts and, at his court, was a pundit who, although a learned man, lacked commonsense.

Every day the pundit used to sit with the King and tell him countless stories from the Puranas. The King enjoyed these stories, and to show his pleasure, he would shower the pundit with costly gifts. Unfortunately, this gave the pundit a wrong idea of his importance, and strutting around like a peacock, he would coldly ignore ministers and courtiers, so he soon made many enemies at court.

The Chief Minister decided it was time the pundit would teach a lesson, so he ordered the palace guards not to allow the pundit into the palace anymore. Every day the pundit went to the palace gates, and the pundit was turned away by the guards. The pundit wrote a letter to the King, begging him why he was not allowed to enter the palace.

The pundit took his letter to the palace and ordered t guards to deliver it immediately to the King. The captain of the guard promptly took the note to the Chief Minister, who just as quickly tore it up.

In the meantime, the King was curious as to why he had not seen the pundit for some time, so he sent for the Chief Minister to find out whether he knew the reason for the pundit’s absence.

In a solemn voice, the Chief Minister told the King that the poor pundit had been suddenly taken ill and died. The King was upset to hear such bad news, but after a few days, the memory of the pundit receded in his mind.

Alas, the poor pundit continued to write imploring letters to the King, which were all delivered to the Chief Minister, who destroyed them without any scruples. So the pundit waited and waited in vain for a reply, and in his despair, he realised that he had not a single friend at court.

He knew now that his arrogance was to blame for his present disfavour and vowed to change his attitude if only he could be allowed to enter the palace again. Finally, he decided he would try and see the King when he rode out of the court.

Within a few days, the pundit’s patience was rewarded, and as the King and his entourage came through the palace gates, the pundit rushed forward and fell to his knees in front of the King’s horse. Turning to his Chief Minister, the King asked, “Is this not the pundit who died so suddenly?”

“Your Majesty”, replied the Chief Minister with a mournful look, “It must be the pundit’s ghost.”

That same evening the pundit waited patiently for the King’s return, and as the King rode by, the pundit stepped forward and handed the King a letter.

On reaching the palace, the King opened the letter and read, “Your Majesty, when I served you, I did not realise that I also had a duty towards others. That was why I became a ghost, even though I am still alive.”

The Chief Minister explained why teaching the pundit a lesson was necessary. The King, who had every faith in his Chief Minister’s judgement, was highly amused and decided that the pundit should again be allowed at court as the Chief Minister’s lesson must have done him a world of good.

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