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The Golden Swan

Queen Kshema of Varanasi often had very vivid dreams at night. Early one morning before sunrise, one day, she dreamed of a beautiful golden swan that spoke words of wisdom in a human voice. She shared her dream with her husband, King Bahuputraka. Of course she wondered if indeed such a bird existed. The king ever eager to please his wife consulted his ministers on this matter. His ministers in turn brought an array of hunters and forest dwellers to the palace. Upon their advice he decided to construct a fabulous lake that would attract this rare bird that had been heard of.

The lake Kshema named after the queen soon became the most attractive sight in Varanasi. Lotuses, lilies and hyacinths dotted its deep blue waters. Fish of many colours darted amidst the greenery. All around the lake grew flowering bushes and trees providing perches for the traveling birds and shade for those that played below. Each day the king’s men would scatter corn for the birds on the open grass while the hunters would hide behind to watch for the rare bird.

News of Lake Kshema reached Mount Chitrakuta where ninety thousand swans lived under the leadership of the golden swan, Dattaratha. One fine morning when the rays of dawn spread in the sky the whole group of swans left for Varanasi. There they planned to play and eat. Their arrival was like a large cloud. “Do you see this great mass of swans?” asked a herald. “Look at the one in the front,” remarked another. “What a brilliant golden plumage he has,” said yet another. “This must be the golden swan that the King spoke about,” they said. Put out the nets!” said the fowler-in-chief. Dattaratha gently glided on to the surface of the blue water. Within moments he found his right foot trapped in the snare. His struggle to free himself was accompanied by a mad rush of flapping golden wings. The other birds flew around him, honking and screeching in alarm. Soon they gave up and flew away in haste back to their home. Only one swan remained. He was Sumukha, assistant to Dattaratha. Dattaratha turned to him and asked, “All others have flown to safety, Sumukha, why do you not fly away before you are in trouble?” The snow white Sumukha replied, “Sir, we have all been under your caring rule for so long. Now that you are in danger I cannot abandon you. I too will either be captive or die with you.”

The fowler in chief hearing these words realized that these were not ordinary birds. He felt that in capturing them he would incur demerits and be punishable under the universal divine law of action and reaction. He put his hands around the golden swan and gently released him from the strings of the net. Washing the blood away he twisted the bones back in place. Miraculously the feet healed right away.

Dattaratha asked the fowler, “Tell me did you capture me for yourself or were you obeying someone else’s command?” The fowler informed him of the king’s order. Dattaratha then took Sumukha aside and whispered, “Our release means that this poor fowler will not get his reward. Let us ask to see the king.” The fowler was amazed when Sumukha told him of Dattaratha’s idea. “The king may keep you as captives. Why don’t you escape right now?” he warned. “I shall make the king understand what he needs to do. Trust me,” said the golden swan.

The fowler tied the two swans gently to his pole and took them to the palace. The King, Queen and the courtiers all assembled in the hall to see these handsome creatures. Bahuputraka fed them with his own hands. Then instead of caging them he sat up all night listening to the wise words from Dattaratha. The golden swan advised him on proper kingship. He taught him how to raise his many sons so they may benefit the world. He showed him the truth of living a truly virtuous life.

At dawn the royal family bid farewell to the pair. The king announced that from henceforth lake Kshema would be there for them to freely enjoy. They looked to the sky and saw the plumage of Dattaratha glisten in the sun, so golden and radiant. The golden swan was followed by the faithful snowy white Sumukha as they flew up disappeared amidst the fleecy clouds above Varanasi.

Om Muni Muni MAHAmuniye Svaha