Once upon a time, when Brahma-datta was reigning in Benāres, four brothers, Brāhmans, of that kingdom, devoted themselves to an ascetic life; and having built themselves huts at equal distances in the region of the Himālaya mountains, took up their residence there.
The eldest of them died, and was reborn as the god Sakka.When he became aware of this, he used to go and render help at intervals every seven or eight days to the others. And one day, having greeted the eldest hermit, and sat down beside him, he asked him, “Reverend Sir, what are you in need of?”
The hermit, who suffered from jaundice, answered, “I want fire!” So he gave him a double-edged hatchet.
But the hermit said, “Who is to take this, and bring me firewood?”
Then Sakka spake thus to him, “Whenever, reverend Sir, you want firewood, you should let go the hatchet from your hand, and say, ‘Please fetch me firewood: make me fire!’ And it will do so.”
So he gave him the hatchet; and went to the second hermit, and asked, “Reverend Sir, what are you in need of?”
Now the elephants had made a track for themselves close to his hut. And he was annoyed by those elephants, and said, “I am much troubled by elephants; drive them away.”
Sakka, handing him a drum, said, “Reverend Sir, if you strike on this side of it, your enemies will take to flight; but if you strike on this side, they will become friendly, and surround you on all sides with an army in fourfold array.”
So he gave him the drum; and went to the third hermit, and asked, “Reverend Sir, what are you in need of?”
He was also affected with jaundice, and said, therefore, “I want sour milk.”
Sakka gave him a milk-bowl, and said, “If you wish for anything, and turn this bowl over, it will become a great river, and pour out such a torrent, that it will be able to take a kingdom, and give it to you.”
And Sakka went away. But thenceforward the hatchet made fire for the eldest hermit; when the second struck one side of his drum, the elephants ran away; and the third enjoyed his curds.
Now at that time a wild boar, straying in a forsaken village, saw a gem of magical power. When he seized this in his mouth, he rose by its magic into the air, and went to an island in the midst of the ocean. And thinking, “Here now I ought to live,” he descended, and took up his abode in a convenient spot under an Udumbara-tree. And one day, placing the gem before him, he fell asleep at the foot of the tree.
Now a certain man of the Land of Kāsi had been expelled from home by his parents, who said, “This fellow is of no use to us.” So he went to a seaport, and embarked in a ship as a servant to the sailors. And the ship was wrecked; but by the help of a plank he reached that very island. And while he was looking about for fruits, he saw the boar asleep; and going softly up, he took hold of the gem.
Then by its magical power he straightway rose right up into the air! So, taking a seat on the Udumbara-tree, he said to himself, “Methinks this boar must have becomexix a sky-walker through the magic power of this gem. That’s how he got to be living here! It’s plain enough what I ought to do; I’ll first of all kill and eat him, and then I can get away!”
So he broke a twig off the tree, and dropped it on his head. The boar woke up, and not seeing the gem, ran about, trembling, this way and that way. The man seated on the tree laughed. The boar, looking up, saw him, and dashing his head against the tree, died on the spot.
But the man descended, cooked his flesh, ate it, and rose into the air. And as he was passing along the summit of the Himālaya range, he saw a hermitage; and descending at the hut of the eldest hermit, he stayed there two or three days, and waited on the hermit; and thus became aware of the magic power of the hatchet.
“I must get that,” thought he. And he showed the hermit the magic power of his gem, and said, “Sir, do you take this, and give me your hatchet.” The ascetic, full of longing to be able to fly through the air,23 did so. But the man, taking the hatchet, went a little way off, and letting it go, said, “O hatchet! cut off that hermit’s head, and bring the gem to me!” And it went, and cut off the hermit’s head, and brought him the gem.
Then he put the hatchet in a secret place, and went to the second hermit, and stayed there a few days. And having thus become aware of the magic power of the drum, he exchanged the gem for the drum; and cut off his head too in the same way as before.
Then he went to the third hermit, and saw the magic power of the milk-bowl; and exchanging the gem for it, caused his head to be cut off in the same manner. And taking the Gem, and the Hatchet, and the Drum, and the Milk-bowl, he flew away up into the air.
Not far from the city of Benāres he stopped, and sent by the hand of a man a letter to the king of Benāres to this effect, “Either do battle, or give me up your kingdom!”
No sooner had he heard that message, than the king sallied forth, saying, “Let us catch the scoundrel!”
But the man beat one side of his drum, and a fourfold army stood around him! And directly he saw that the king’s army was drawn out in battle array, he poured out his milk-bowl; and a mighty river arose, and the multitude, sinking down in it, were not able to escape! Then letting go the hatchet, he said, “Bring me the king’s head!” And the hatchet went, and brought the king’s head, and threw it at his feet; and no one had time even to raise a weapon!
Then he entered the city in the midst of his great army, and caused himself to be anointed king, under the name of Dadhi-vāhana (The Lord of Milk), and governed the kingdom with righteousness.