Long, long ago in a forest near Benares, in Central India, lived two groups of deer. One was headed the beautiful golden skinned deer named Banyan and the other by Branch, another golden deer. They took care of their herd and grazed on the green grass close to the river.
One day the King of Benares came by hunting. He shot one deer and thought of the nice meal he’d soon have. As he was leaving the forest he saw two herds of deer on the banks of river. He was delighted seeing them.
“From tomorrow, I shall hunt deer everyday from this forest,” he said to his minister.
My lord, did you notice the two golden deer amongst them,” asked the minister.
The king saw them and said, “They are so beautiful, they should be killed last. Nobody dare touch them.”
Thereafter he came with his servants everyday and hunted. The scared deer ran praying for their lives whenever they saw the king. And the king sometimes hunted just for fun. And many were wounded in the process.
Seeing the deer suffer, Banyan called the two herds together. “It looks like we cannot escape death. We all must die one day. But we can make it safer for all of us by deciding to send one deer each day for the king’s meal. One day from my herd and the next from Branch’s herd.”
Next day, Banyan went and spoke to the king about their decision. Banyan also requested the king not to hunt and that the deer would be sent to his palace every day. The king agreed.
Every day a deer went to the palace and was came under the butcher’s knife. Days and months passed by this way.
One day it was the turn of a pregnant deer to offer her life. She belonged to the Branch’s herd. She requested Branch to spare her life till the young one was born.
“I’ll lay down my life as soon as the baby is born,” she said.
But Branch would not agree: “It’s not possible to send someone else, it’s your turn.”
The deer then went to Banyan and explained the need to save her baby.
“Don’t worry, your turn will not come for a long time,” assured Banyan.
And to the astonishment of all deer, Banyan himself offered his life.
When the king saw Banyan, the golden deer, in the palace, he said, “I have spared you till the end. Why do you come?”
“King, but there’s a need to save a little deer who has not even seen this beautiful world,” said Banyan and explained the story of the pregnant deer.
The king felt ashamed. Animals have so much compassion for each other. We humans are low compared to them, he thought.
“From here on, all the deer in this forest shall be spared of death,” promised the king.
And Banyan went back happy that all deer could live happily ever after.
Notes: When confronted by risky situations, leaders tend to stand up and face it. Leadership is all about setting examples and living by basic principles.