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King’s Temple and Cobbler’s Cottage

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

05 January 2022

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Your people have asked me to give away my land. Right from my birth, this little cottage has been hosting me like a mother. It has hosted me through all Sukha-duhkhas. I am not able to tolerate the thought of the cottage being demolished.

This story appears in ‘Rajatarangini’. It is by the famous Kashmiri poet Kalhana.

In the 12th Century, Kashmir was ruled by King Chandrapida who was a noble, impartial and just king.

King Chandrapida had a wish to build a Tribhuvanaswami (Lord of the three worlds) temple.

The King and his advisors discussed what would be the most suitable place to build the temple. After sufficient discussions, they started looking for it and finally found an ideal place for the temple. In this land, there was a small hut belonging to a cobbler. The cobbler did not consent to the removal of his hut despite the orders of the king’s officials. It was his land and his cottage and he was not prepared to leave the land.

Forceful acquisition is not right by any standard of judgment. The officials could not proceed with the work because he was not willing to leave his land. When he was unwilling to spare his land, negotiations started. But the negotiations also proved futile. The cobbler was not convinced and he would not give away his rights to his land. All the preparations for construction were at a standstill.

When this news was communicated to the king, he declared that his ministers were wrong. He said, “When someone’s property is there, you should not have tried to convince him to leave.” The king did not speak a word against the cobbler.

He told his officials, “What you have done is blameworthy. You should have understood his needs. Before attempting to do anything, you should have taken his consent. I don’t approve of it.”

This is not mere history. It is an epic. It tells us why something is done very clearly.

The King said, “Either you stop preparations for construction or build the temple in another place. People have given me the status of a king. I owe everything to my subjects. If the land belongs to the cobbler, we have no right to the land. It is like robbing him. You have brought disrepute to my kingdom.”

What is the duty of a king? He has to make sure that everyone behaves righteously. Those who have to uphold Dharma, suppose they disregard it, what will people do? Which path will they walk in?

This is India. This is our heredity and legacy. We have always stood for propriety, ethics, and righteousness. We cannot behave in any manner we like. There should be dignity and elegance in whatever we do.

Hearing the king’s words, the ministers were embarrassed.

Then, a messenger came from the cobbler wishing to have an audience with the king.

When he was brought to the king, he said, “My lord (the cobbler) wants to have an interview with the king. If he can be entertained in court, he can come here. If not, he is ready to meet outside the court.”

Instantly the interview was sanctioned. The king welcomed the cobbler with all honour and respect.

The King said, “A temple is going to be built by which the society will be benefitted. Why are you hindering it? If you have any difficulty, tell me. I am prepared to give as much wealth or money as you want. We can build another house for you in another location according to your needs.”

After saying this, the king kept quiet. The king was waiting to know what the cobbler would say. He looked at him intently.

The Cobbler said, “O Lord, I am not a literate person. Whatever comes to my mouth and tongue, I will say. I will use my own language. As innocently as I am speaking, you must also listen innocently. Do not stand by conceit or pride.”

He was speaking to the king in this manner. This is democracy. A good king has to listen to his people’s thoughts and opinions.

How great the king was! He was majestic, noble and tolerant. He wanted everyone to express openly their thoughts and feelings before him. He had love for his people.

When the king and the cobbler were speaking, all the officials were getting restless.

The Cobbler continued, “I am not lower than a dog. You are not greater than Lord Rama. Your people are very restless. Why? Am I not your subject? Are you not my king?”

“Anybody who is born, has a body. It is like a dress. It is perishable. It is just like a shirt hung from two poles. Our body is hanging on two poles-ego and possessiveness.”

King listened patiently because the cobbler was talking sense.

“Both our bodies have only Panchabhutas. Your body is decorated by bangles, anklets and other gold ornaments. I have nothing. But the ego and possessiveness I have for my own body, is the same as you have for yours.”

“Yours is a royal palace made of marble. Sun Rays are entering through windows and are brightening up the rooms. My cottage is made of grass walls. For windows, we use necks of mud pots. The sunlight enters my hut through the necks of mud pots. So, there is no difference.”

“Your people have asked me to give away my land. Right from my birth, this little cottage has been hosting me like a mother. It has hosted me through all Sukha-duhkhas. I am not able to tolerate the thought of the cottage being demolished.”

“When one’s house is being forcefully taken away, when a king loses his kingdom, no one will be able to explain the pain and torment.”

“This is my problem. You have your requirement. I also have mine. How to resolve the problem? I am not able to leave my cottage. The temple is also required.”

In conclusion, the cobbler said, “I will tell you what is in my mind. If you come to my cottage and beg for it, I shall give.

This is our dear India. When someone begs, you cannot refuse. When a hungry man needs food, you have to feed him. You are the possessor and he is the seeker and you cannot say ‘No’. You are bound by sadachara.

The conversation stopped and the cobbler left.

The next day, the king went to the cobbler’s cottage and begged for the piece of land and was given.

Whenever you are out to do something great, you cannot stand by prestige. You have to be humble.

The Cobbler said folding his hands, “This readiness that you have shown, speaks of your dharmic adherence. I adore it and bless you.”

This is characteral elegance and dignity of the heart.

The cobbler said, “I have heard that Yudhishthira was very righteous. I have heard that when they were ascending to heaven, all other Pandavas fell. Only Yudhishthira was climbing because of his righteousness. There was a dog with him. When they asked Yudhishthira to climb into the Vimana (a heavenly chariot), he said he would not go without the dog.

The cobbler said, “We have heard this story. But today, I have seen you being so Dharmic. I have seen how righteous you are.”

“My dear king, live long and gloriously showing many other instances of dharma. There are a set of people who are interested in embodying this kind of characteral elegance and behavioural majesty. Give them more and more of such examples for them to follow”.

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“I will tell you what is in my mind. If you come to my cottage and beg for it, I shall give”

“The next day, the king went to the cobbler’s cottage and begged for the piece of land and was given. ”

“Whenever you are out to do something great, you cannot stand by prestige. You have to be humble.”

“The Cobbler said folding his hands, “This readiness that you have shown, speaks of your dharmic adherence. I adore it and bless you.””

“My dear king, live long and gloriously showing many other instances of dharma. There are a set of people who are interested in embodying this kind of characteral elegance and behavioural majesty. Give them more and more of such examples for them to follow.”

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