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The White Elephant and the King of Benaras

Once upon a time there lived a herd of elephants in the forests adjoining the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.

The herd was led by a beautiful white elephant.  The elephant was wise and kind to his subjects.  He lived with his elderly mother.  The mother elephant was advanced in years and was weak.  She was also blind.  Her dutiful son, the white elephant, took great care of his mother.  He loved her very much.

One day, one of the elephants came across a man wandering in the forest.  The man was famished and disheveled.  His clothes were dirty and he was in a bad state.  The White elephant was immediately informed of the intruder.  The white elephant approached the man.  The frightened man only ran further away.

The White elephant went close to him.  “Do not be afraid”, he said, “we have come to help you”.    The man, who had by now overcome his fear, narrated his sad story.  “I am from a party of woodcutters who were chopping wood in these forests”, he said.  “I went deeper into the forest in search of wood and soon discovered that I was lost”, he sobbed.  He said that he was wandering desperately to get out of the forest for seven days.

The White elephant took pity on him.  He knew the way out of the forest.  He took him to his dwelling and gave him fruits to eat.

A few days later, the White Elephant asked one of the elephants to guide him on the way home.  The man, whose name was Ghanshyam, thanked the elephant very much.

 Ghanshyam came out of the forest and found his way to Benaras.    Just then he heard the news of the death of the Royal Elephant of the King of Benaras.  The whole city of Benaras and the Royal household were in a state of mourning.

As soon as the period of mourning was over, the officials of the palace set about searching for a new elephant which would be the Royal Elephant.  They promised a reward of ten thousand gold coins to someone who would suggest a good elephant.

Ghanshyam suddenly remembered the White Elephant.  He recalled its stately appearance and grand bearing.  If only, he could catch the elephant and give it to the king, he would be a rich man.  In his greed, he had forgotten his debt of gratitude to the kind elephant.

The wicked Ghanshyam approached the Chief Minister and told of his adventure and the white elephant.    Ghanshyam, offered to lead them to the elephant.

A few days, the minister assembled a group of mahouts and other elephants from the royal stables.  A detachment of soldiers were also to accompany the group into the forest.    Ghanshyam took the royal party straight to the pond where the elephants used to bathe.

The royal party positioned their own trained domestic elephants around the lake and sealed all the escape routes.  Unfortunately, for the white elephant, that day he had come to bath with only a couple of his close friends.  The other elephants were in another part of the forest.    Outnumbered and surrounded, the white elephant was caught.

Soon, mahouts atop the tame elephants threw thick ropes over the white elephant and tied him.  The White elephant was led away from the forest to Benaras.  The White elephant was heartbroken when he thought of his poor blind mother.

In Benaras, the white elephant was the talk of the town.  The king was also impressed with the new elephant.  He admired the white complexion of the elephant and his graceful poise.

Soon, the White elephant was decked with all the finery reserved for the elephant of state.  He was then led to the royal stables where a special enclosure was ready for him.  The minister ordered the choicest foods to be placed before him.  But the White elephant did not touch him.  He was depressed.  The king noticed his moody appearance.  He thought that it was due to the stress of capture.

But the white elephant never recovered from his depression.  He was constantly thinking of the forest and his mother.  The king was concerned.  He went down to the royal stables to find the reason for the elephant’s sadness.

The elephant told him the reason for his sadness.  He told him of his poor mother and how he was separated from her and was always thinking of her.  The king was deeply moved.
He was angry with his ministers for having been so cruel.  The next day, he ordered his minister to return the white elephant to the forest.  The white elephant thanked the king and returned to the forest to be with his mother.

The king, made one of his own elephants, the royal elephant.  He ruled Benaras for many years wisely and well.  The White elephant lived in the forest for many years with his mother and his companions.

Children, this story tell us to not to be considerate towards others and their feelings.   If we have unknowingly caused sadness to others, we need to correct our mistakes.

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