The Accidental Astrologer

- December 10, 2022


By Srinidhi Murthy

In a small village, there lived a poor Brahmin called Manduka. He had been named Manduka, meaning ‘frog’, because since he was a small child, his father often told him that he was as dull as a frog in the well.  Now grown up, Manduka observed that nobody in the village took notice of him. One day, when he was passing by a merchant’s house and noticed that a wedding was taking place. Disappointed that he had not received an invitation to the wedding, he thought to himself,  

“I wish I could do something which would make everyone sit up and take notice of me.” 

Suddenly, he had an idea. He went to the stable and quietly led away the horse on which the bridegroom had come. He then took the horse to a secret place near a stream, without anyone seeing him. The next morning, the merchant was informed by his servant about the missing horse. The merchant panicked and ordered his servants to start a search. After some time, a servant came running to the merchant and told him that a woman was waiting for him outside. He also added that the woman claimed to be married to an astrologer, who could help find the horse. The merchant immediately ordered his servants to bring the astrologer to him. 

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Soon, Manduka, dressed as an astrologer, met the merchant in his house. He told the merchant that he would find the horse near the stream. To his surprise, the merchant found the horse exactly at the place Manduka had mentioned. Impressed, he rewarded Manduka handsomely for his help. After this incident, Manduka’s reputation as a credible astrologer grew and people began to take notice of him and respect him. 

One day, Manduka received a summon from the king. At the palace, the king told him that his queen’s necklace has been stolen and asked Manduka to find it using his astrological talents. Manduka was terrified. He was worried that the king would discover that he was not a real astrologer. 

In his despair, Manduka blamed his tongue for all his troubles, while he was in his palace chamber. He said – 

“What have you done, Jihvah (Tongue)? Why did you do it?” 

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

What he did not know was that the maid, named Jihvah, who had stolen the queen’s necklace, was watching him. She was shocked to hear Manduka’s words and thought that he had found out about her being a thief. She immediately went to him and confessed that she had stolen the necklace in a moment of weakness. She begged for mercy and requested him not to reveal her theft to the king. Manduka was surprised at the turn of events. He kept a calm face and told the maid that he would not reveal her name to the king if she told him about the whereabouts of the necklace. 

The next day, Manduka took the king to the palace garden and told him that the necklace was buried under a tree. Indeed, the king found the necklace under a tree Manduka had shown him. However, to the king’s surprise, Manduka refused to reveal the thief’s identity. The king’s minister became suspicious of Manduka’s intentions and told the king that Manduka might have found the necklace in the palace and hid it under the tree to gain praise from the king. After listening to his minister, the king decided to set one more test for Manduka to prove his worth.  

Accordingly, Manduka was summoned by the king once again. This time, the king placed a closed jar in front of him and asked him to identify what was inside. Manduka worried that the king would put him to death if he told him that he was not an astrologer. In his despair, he loudly said to himself –  

“O Manduka (Frog)! You were better off in the well” 

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Much to Manduka’s surprise, the king praised him and revealed that there was indeed a frog hidden in the jar. The king rewarded Manduka handsomely and he went back home to a hero’s welcome. 

 

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