In a forest glade, by the side of River Ganges, high on the mountains there lived about eighty thousand monkeys along with their giant monkey king. And by the side of the clear gushing water stood a tall shady tree bearing big beautiful juicy golden fruits commonly called mangoes.
All the monkeys just loved these mangoes and ate them off almost as soon as they had ripened. Which was a very good thing as their wise giant king had warned them not to let a single juicy fruit fall into the river. Because if the current carried even one of these fruits down the river to the land where the men lived, they would surely come in search of this delicious fruit and destroy the peace in the land of the monkeys.
It so happened that a branch of this tree hung low over the river and a mango that was hidden behind an ant’s nest ripened and fell off without anyone’s knowledge. It was taken down south by the rapid flow of the river and reached the city of Benaras.
One fine morning when King Brahmadutta of Benaras was bathing in the river between two nets, a couple of fishermen found a bright golden fruit caught in the mesh of the net. Very excited they took it to show the King. The King examined the fruit carefully and asked where it had come from and what it was called. The fishermen did not know much about it but guessed that it must have flowed down the river from the valleys of the far-flung Himalayas.
He then asked them to cut the mango and tasted a slice. It was simply delicious. He shared the rest of it with his ministers and Queen who loved its divine flavour.
A few days passed, but the King could not get this exotic fruit out of his mind. He could not work; rest or sleep for want of some more. Finally he could bear it no longer and set sail in search of it. He organised a fleet of rafts and sailed up the river accompanied by his men and a few fishermen.
Many days and many nights went by and they passed many valleys until they finally came to the one where the mango tree stood. Mission accomplished, the King was delighted and began enjoying the mangoes to his heart’s content. Finally, that night, the King lay down to sleep under the mango tree while his faithful soldiers stood guard. Fires were lit on either side for protection against wild animals.
In the middle of the night when the guards had dozed off to sleep, the monkeys came and finished off all the mangoes that were left on the tree. The King awoke with all the noise and ordered his guards to shoot at the monkeys so that they could feast on monkey flesh along with the mangoes.
On hearing this, the monkeys trembled with fear and escaped to inform their King. They told him what had happened and he promised to save them. But for that he had to come up with a plan.
So he climbed up the tree and swung across the river with the help of a branch. He found a bamboo shoot which he measured and cut carefully, and then tied one end of it around his waist. The other end he tied around a tree trunk. He had decided to leap back to the mango tree and help the rest of the monkeys across over the bridge that he had made with the help of the bamboo shoot.
But alas… he had not taken into account the portion that he had tied around his waist. So when the monkey king sprang back into the mango grove he was just able to cling to a branch of the mango tree. He quickly summoned his monkeys to climb over his back and onto the reed in order to escape to the other side. In this way, eighty thousand monkeys climbed over his back one by one and made it to safety.
But unfortunately there was one evil monkey who hated his leader and wanted to destroy him. His name was Devadutta. This mean monkey purposely jumped hard over his poor king’s back and broke it, while he himself escaped to the other bank.
King Brahmadutta, who had been awake for awhile, had observed this whole episode. He felt extremely sorry for the monkey king and asked his men to help lower him to the ground. He then had him gently bathed and wrapped in a soft yellow cloth and asked him why he had sacrificed himself for his tribe. The great monkey answered that as he was their guide and chief, they were his children and it was his sacred duty to protect them. He had absolutely no regrets as he had ensured their safety. He also went on to say that the King should always be mindful of his subjects’ welfare even at the cost of his own. Saying this the monkey king died at peace with himself.
King Brahmadutta had learnt a great deal that day. He ordered his men to organise a funeral fit for a King. He then built a shrine in the monkey king’s memory where he offered flowers and lit candles and incense.
On returning to Benaras, he built another shrine there and asked his people to pay homage to this great soul. He always remembered the last words of the monkey king and ruled his subjects with wisdom and compassion. The people in his kingdom were eternally grateful to the great-hearted monkey.