A lion named Bhasuraka ruled the jungle, indiscriminately killing all other animals. All the other animals decided to meet the lion one day in a delegation. “Oh, lord,” they said, “why do you kill so many of us every day, when you need only one for your food? Let us have an agreement. Now onwards, there would be no need for you to hunt. We will send an animal every day to you. This way, you will be spared the trouble of hunting and we would get our lives.”
“Our forebears have said that the duty of the king is to rule and not to destroy. Just as a seed sprouts, grows into a tree and yields fruit, a people protected by the king come to his rescue in times of need.”
“What you say is true,” the lion said and added a condition. “If you fail to send one animal every day, I shall kill all of you.”
“Agreed,” said the animals and began roaming the forest without fear and sending one of their own folk to the lion for his lunch. One day a rabbit’s turn came, it being rabbit-day. And when all the crowding animals had given him directions, he thought: “How is it possible to kill this lion? After all, there is nothing that cannot be achieved by wisdom and resolve.”
So he went very slowly, planning to arrive tardily, and meditating with troubled spirit on a means of killing him. On the way he spotted a big well and saw his own reflection when he peeped into the well out of curiosity. Suddenly an idea struck the rabbit. “I will somehow tempt the lion to the well and persuade him to jump into it,” the rabbit thought to himself.
It was late in the evening when the rabbit reached the lion’s den. The lion was hungry and so angry that he decided to kill all the animals when the rabbit came and knelt before him. “First, you are too small for my lunch. Second, you have come late. I shall kill you and all the others too,” the lion warned the rabbit.
Then the rabbit bowed low and said with deference: “Master, the wickedness is not mine, nor the other animals. Please hear the cause of it.” And the lion answered: “Well, tell it quick, before you are between my fangs.”
“Master,” said the rabbit, “all the animals recognized today that the rabbits’ turn had come, and because I was quite small, they sent five other rabbits with me. But in mid-journey there came a lion from a great hole in the ground who said: ‘Where are you bound? Pray to your favourite God.’ Then I said: ‘We are traveling as the dinner of lion Bhasuraka, our master, according to agreement.’ ‘Is that so?’ said he. ‘This forest belongs to me. So all the animals, without exception, must deal with me according to agreement. This Bhasuraka is a sneak thief. Call him out and bring him here at once. Then whichever of us proves stronger, shall be king and shall eat all these animals.’ At his command, master, I have come to you. This is the cause of my tardiness. For the rest, my master is the sole judge.”
“In that case,” Bhasuraka told the rabbit, “show me that sneak thief of a lion, and be quick about it. I will kill him and have him for lunch. According to the elders, territory, friendship and gold are the rewards of war. Wise men do not go to war unless there are gains.”
“Warriors fight for their country when they are insulted. But this fellow skulks in a fortress. You know he came out of a fortress when he held us up. And an enemy in a fortress is hard to handle.” When he heard this, Bhasuraka said: “My good fellow, show me that thief. Even if he is hiding in a fortress, I will kill him. Don’t you know that you have to crush the enemy and disease at the first opportunity? Otherwise, they will grow in strength and crush you.”
“Very true,” said the rabbit. “But after all it was a mighty lion that I saw. So the master should not set out without realizing the enemy’s capacity.”
Growing impatient, the lion roared, “why all this tall talk. Show him to me, even in his fortress.” “Very well,” said the rabbit. “Follow me, master.” And he led the way to the well, where he said to the lion: “Master, who can endure your majesty? The moment he saw you, that thief crawled clear into his hole. Come, I will show him to you.” “Be quick about it, my good fellow,” said Bhasuraka.
So the rabbit showed him the well. And the lion, being a dreadful fool, saw his own reflection in the water, and gave voice to a great roar. Then from the well issued a roar twice as loud, because of the echo. This the lion heard, decided that his rival was very powerful, hurled himself down, and met his death. Thereupon the rabbit cheerfully carried the glad news to all the animals, received their compliments, and lived there contentedly in the forest.