The Princes and the Palash

Mythology Resources for Children

Last week’s blog about Flowers and Holi, India’s festival of Colour – was an Ode to the Palash, one of my favourite trees. In case you missed it, click here to read it.

The Palash, as I mentioned in the blog, is one of India’s most spectacular native trees, popularly known as the Flame of the Forest. I ended last week’s blog with a promise to tell you a story about this beautiful tree – a unique version of the Elephant and the Five (sometimes Six) Blind Men.

It’s an evergreen story for all ages.

elephant and blind me.jpg
The Elephant and the Five Blind Men is a popular story. But have you heard about the Palash and the Four Princes?

Princes and the Palash

There once lived a King named Brahmadutta in Benaras with 4 sons.

His sons had heard much about the beauty of the Kimsukha tree (Palash Tree) and wished to see it.

The wise King decided to use the opportunity to teach his sons a lesson and asked the charioteer to take them separately to see the tree at different times of the year.

The Four Princes wished to see the Palash Tree but the King asked the charioteer to take them separately

Consequently, the first son happened to see the tree when the buds were sprouting. The second got a glimpse when it’s leaves were fresh and green. The third boy saw the tree when it was in full bloom. The last of the sons saw the tree when it was fruiting.

After they had all seen the tree, the King called the four brothers and asked them for their observations.

Making an unpleasant face, the first boy recalled “Oh! The tree looks like a burnt stump. It has no leaves and its branches are completely bare!”

The first prince saw the tree when it was completely bare

The second one disagreed. “Not at all! The tree is just like the Banyan, so full of lovely green leaves.”

“The Palash is just like the Banyan – green and leafy!” said the second prince.

The third son shook his head. “The tree isn’t green at all! It is completely red. It reminded me of a piece of meat!”

‘The Palash is completely red’ said the third prince, ‘just like a piece of meat!”

The fourth boy looked amused. “What are you all talking about? The tree is neither red nor green. It is neither bare nor full of foliage like the Banyan! I’d say it is just like the Acacia with plenty of fruits!”

“Oh no! Surely you’ve seen some other tree!” laughed the first boy.

“Not at all! You have seen some other tree!” the fourth replied, feeling miffed.

The boys began to argue, each asserting that they knew the truth and claiming what the others said was false. The King listened quietly. After a while, the boys quietened down and looked towards their father for an answer.

“All of you are correct,” the King smiled.

“Huh? How is that possible?” the boys asked, looking surprised.

“You have all seen the correct tree. And all your observations are correct as well.”

The boys looked at one another, still unable to comprehend.

The Princes argued and debated; each one insisting they were right.

“You have all seen the tree in a different season. So while you know what it looked like at the time you saw it, you have no idea how it looks in a different time of the year.”

The boys were stunned. It had been a simple explanation, yet it hadn’t occurred to them.

The wise King smiled. His sons had learnt an important and valuable lesson. The truth has many dimensions. Knowing one facet did not falsify the others.

While I do not usually enjoy didactic and moralistic tales like the Aesops Fables and the Panchatantra much, this is a story I absolutely love! It comes from the Buddhist Jataka Stories. And if only we could teach our children to adopt this perspective, I do believe there’d be less room for conflict in their lives.

As a parent, you can get creative with the story.

If your child is young, use it to explain the idea of seasons to your child. Explain how a tree looks different at different times of the year.

Some trees are leafy through the year; Others look completely bare during winter/autumn. Why is that? Use this story to explore the concept of evergreen and deciduous with your child

If your child is slightly older, talk to them about deciduous and evergreen trees, about flowering and fruiting cycles.

You can use this story to tell your child about flowering and fruiting cycles of trees

If your child is older, tap into this tale for its philosophical and deeper meaning. It can help your child understand why dogmatic and one-sided views are quite simply wrong. A useful lesson for life!

Go on! Let the Palash be your guide!

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  • Ramanjit Garewal
    March 23, 2019 - 8:52 pm ·

    Dear Mallika…?
    In whatever seasons…
    I read your stories…
    The more convinced I am about your stories…
    That they are for all seasons…
    Ever green are your stories…
    Ever flowering are your stories…
    Every fruit bearing are your stories…

    March 31, 2019 - 1:23 pm ·

    Good one, and so true, if only we could remember it every time we go into argument sure ours is the only way ? well said and wise tale indeed, it sure connects and advertised – Avidya one of the kleshas we all suffer from eh!

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