Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji    

Chapter 4: Kari's Adventure in Benares

Performer: Librivox - Adrian Praetzellis

In the gathering silence of the evening, we entered the city of Benares, the oldest city in India. For three thousand years stone has been laid on stone to keep this city with its haughty towers and sombre domes above the rushing and destroying currents of the sacred river. The river like a liquid ax is continually cutting away the foundations of the city. At night you can hear the whispering Ganges gnawing at the stone embankments. And that is why all the tall towers of Benares lean slightly over the water's edge. Their roots are being cut as beavers cut the roots of trees. And any Hindu who comes into Benares feels the age of India; she has lived very long — indeed too long, and it seems time no more clings to her than the morning dew clings to the lion's mane.

We went through Benares in a long, narrow file. The camels went first, and the monkey, who had jumped off my shoulder, was leaping from roof to roof following the tide of the caravan. Sometimes he would run ahead and chatter; and then suddenly disappear among roofs and walls. Then he would rush back to talk to me. I fastened two silver bells dangling from silver chains to the elephant's sides, and the cool sound of the bells sank into the cooler serenity of the Indian evening. People were walking about in purple and gold togas; on the house-tops were pigeons whose throats shone like iridescent beads. Through latticed balconies you could see the faces of women with eyes warm and tranquil as the midnight.

We had not gone very far when Kari put out his trunk and took a peacock fan out of a lady's hand as she leant against the railing of a balcony. He then proceeded to give it to me. I made him stop and give it back to its owner. The lady, however, would not take it. "Oh, little dreamer of the evening," she said, "cool thyself with my peacock fan. Thy elephant is very wise, but I am afraid he is no worse a scamp than thou art."

I took the fan, made my bow to the lady and went on. Hardly had we gone two more blocks when the screaming and jabbering monkey fell upon us. Behind him on the roof of one of the houses we saw a man with a long cudgel which he shook at the monkey. I stopped the elephant again and said to the man, "Why art thou irate when the evening is so cool, little man of the city?"

"That monkey! Ten thousand curses upon him!" he said. "He has been teasing my parrot in its cage, and has plucked so many of its feathers that it now looks like a beaked rat."

"I shall indeed punish this wayward monkey," I answered. "But thou knowest that monkeys are no less wayward than thou and I."

At this the man on the roof got very angry and began to hurl all kinds of abuses at me, but I prodded the elephant with my foot and he walked on, while the swearing and cursing of the little man of the city resounded in the stillness of the night. Nothing befell us that night as we took shelter in the open grounds outside of the city.

The following morning long before day-break, I heard nothing but the beat, beat, beat of unknown feet on the dusky pavement of Benares. It seemed as though the stillness of the night were hurrying away. I left my animals where they were and went in quest of those beating feet. There is something sinister in this walk of the Hindu. The Hindu walks with a great deal of poise, in fact, very much like an elephant, but he also has the agility of the panther. I did not realize it until that early morning when I heard the moving feet, as one hears dogs on the hurrying heels of a stag.

Soon I reached the river bank where I saw thousands and thousands of pilgrims crowding the steps of the Ghaut, the staircase leading to the river, bathing and waiting to greet the dawn. As I followed their example and took my bath, there arose over the swaying crowd and the beating feet, a murmur like the spray of foam on the seashore after the breakers have dashed against the beach. Then the day broke like two horses of livid light rushing through the air. In the tropics the day-break is very sudden. Hardly had those streaks of light spent themselves through the sky and over the waters, when a golden glow fell upon the faces of the people and they raised their hands in a gesture of benediction, greeting the morning sun which rose like a mountain of crimson under a tide of gold. All of us said our morning prayer, thousands of voices intoning together.

I could not stay at the Ghaut very long, however. I knew my animals would be looking for me, so I hastened back. And, lo and behold, this sight greeted me! The monkey was sitting on the neck of the elephant, and Kari, who had never been accustomed to that sort of thing was running all around, raising his trunk and bending it backwards to reach the monkey in frantic efforts to shake him off. The one spot that an elephant cannot shake, however, is his neck, so the monkey stayed there perfectly calm, looking into space, secure in his seat.

I shouted to Kari to stop, and seeing me, he came rushing towards me, trembling. He made an effort to shake Kopee off, but the monkey was glued to his neck. I swore at Kopee and told him to get off. He looked down at me as if nothing had happened. I, too, was very irritated, for even I had never seen a monkey on an elephant's neck. That is considered very improper. I threw a stone at the monkey and he jumped from the elephant's neck, went straight up a tree and stayed there. I patted Kari's back and tried to soothe him. Then I took him by the ear and we walked into town.

Kari loved human beings; the more he saw them, the happier he felt. He glided by them like a human child. I was very proud of him and his behavior. As we went on our way, a mouse ran out of a hole in the foundations of a house in front of us. Kari turned around, curled up his trunk, put it in his mouth and ran. You see elephants are not afraid of anything except mice, for a mouse can crawl into an elephant's trunk and disappear in his head. I was humiliated beyond measure at Kari's behavior. He did not stop till he reached the open ground which we had left half an hour before. The monkey was still sitting in the tree. Seeing us, he shook a purse at me. He had stolen somebody's purse and was holding it in his hands waiting for it to be ransomed.

Monkeys, you know, are very much like bandits. Once, I remember, my little sister who was two months old, was lying in a basket on the veranda. Suddenly we heard her crying, and going out on the veranda found that she was not there. Basket and all had disappeared. Then we looked up at a tree and there was an enormous baboon looking down at us, while with one hand he held the basket, which was resting on a branch. My father, however, knew what to do. He sent a servant at once to the bazaar, and in the meantime brought all of the fruit in the house and spread it on the floor of the veranda. The monkey shook his head, meaning that was not ransom enough for him. Very soon the servant returned with an enormous quantity of bananas. The baboon immediately came down, and it was remarkable how he brought down that basket without upsetting it.

My mother, all this while, was weeping silently, leaning against the door. But now her grief was turned to gladness, for lo, and behold, there was the baby asleep in the basket on the veranda, while the baboon sat on a pile of bananas giving a strange monkey call to the other monkeys.

Scarcely had we taken the baby into the house and shut the glass doors of the veranda, when we heard monkeys hooting and calling from all directions, leaping from tree to tree and falling with a great thud on our roof. In ten minutes the veranda became a regular parliament of monkeys chattering over their dinners. After this we were very careful about the baby. Every time she was put out, a man or woman with a stick always watched over her.

Remembering now what had happened to my sister years ago, I called to the men of the caravan who had not yet started and told them the monkey had the purse. True enough, one of them was accusing his servant of having stolen his purse. I told them to buy some bananas and leave them under the tree, and in the course of the day the monkey would come down, leave the purse and take the bananas. I had been humiliated by my elephant, and now being disgusted with my monkey, I took Kari into town again. This time I had my ankus with me, so that in case he should run away I could prick his neck and make him behave.

We went by jewelers' shops where they were cutting diamonds, and stopped in front of the goldsmith's door. Seeing us wait there, the smith came out. "What do you want, do you want gold rings for your elephant's tusks?" You know they put rings on elephant's tusks as human beings put gold in their teeth.

"His tusks have just begun to sprout; they're too beautiful to spoil with rings quite yet," I answered.

"But my rings always make tusks more beautiful," was his retort.

I answered, "All the city folk think that what they do makes everything beautiful. Why don't they make their dirty city beautiful?"

The smith was angry. "If thou be not a buyer of gold, nor a vendor of silver, tarry not at my door; I have no time for beggars."

As we trotted off, I called back, "I do not sell silver, nor do I buy gold, but when my elephant grows up, he will have such tusks that you will cast eyes of envy on them. But this elephant will live more than one hundred and twenty-five years and thou shalt be dead by then, and so there will be no chance of soiling his ivory by buying thy gold."

We walked on very silently through the city, and then of a sudden a pack of dogs were upon us. We knew not whence they had come. Kari was as dignified as a mountain; he never noticed them, but the less attention he paid to them, the more audacious the dogs grew. They came after us and I did not know what to do, as I did not even have a stone to throw at them. In a few moments, we were hemmed in by packs of dogs. Quickly now, Kari turned around and in an instant lifted a dog into the air with his trunk. As the dog would have been dashed into bits, I yelled into his ear, "Brother, brother, do not kill him, but let him down gently, he will not bite you."

At this moment the dog gave such a terrible cry of pain as the trunk was coming down that Kari stopped and slowly brought him to the ground. The dog, however, was already dead; the pressure of the trunk had killed him, and the other dogs, seeing his fate, had already run away.

Kari walked rapidly out of the city and I was heart-sick. He went straight to the river bank and with great difficulty walked down the steps of the Ghaut and buried all except his trunk in the water. He stood there knowing that I knew that he had done something wrong and he was trying to cleanse himself of it. I, too, took my bath.

Late in the afternoon, we went back and found Kopee still sitting on the same tree and looking for us, as the caravan had left long ago. Judging by the banana peels under the trees, we realized he had had his dinner. Kari and I, however, were very hungry and we were both sick of the city. We did not want to see it again, so I called to the monkey to follow and urged the elephant to go on to the nearest forest. Kopee, with one leap, jumped on my neck as I sat on the elephant's back.

This ended Kari's expedition to the city. It is better for animals to be where the jungle is, for the jungle is sweeter and kinder than that wilderness of stones — the city.

    Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji Kari the Elephant by Dhan Gopal Mukerji    

Chapter 4: Kari's Adventure in Benares

Performer: Librivox - Adrian Praetzellis


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Discuss the review questions.


The caravan enters the city of Benares, which bustles upon the banks of the Ganges river. They visit the Ghaut, the famous staircase to the Ganges, where thousands of pilgrims converge to bathe and pray. Later that day, Kari encounters the only animal he fears, a mouse. Kari curls up his trunk and backs away. When a pack of dogs attacks Kari, Kari lifts one in his trunk and accidentally kills the dog. Feeling distraught, Kari walks out of the city and into the Ganges. The narrator muses that the jungle is the best place for animals.


Benares (Varanasi): The oldest city in India.
Ganges: A sacred river flowing through India and Bangladesh.
Wayward: Given to willful, perverse deviation from the expected norm; tending to stray.
Hindu: Of, or relating to Hinduism, or to Hindus and their culture.
Pilgrim: One who travels, especially on a journey to visit sites of religious significance.
Ghaut: Famous steps in Benares leading down to the Ganges.


Activity 1: Recite the Book Information

  • Recite the name of the author, the title of the book, and the title of the chapter.

Activity 2: Narrate the Story

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 3: Copy and Dictate a Sentence   

Complete page 44 in 'Third Grade Prose Copywork and Dictation.'

  • Step 1: Students copy the script sentence.
  • Step 2: Instructors say the sentence aloud, and children write it.
  • Sentence: It is better for animals to be where the jungle is, for the jungle is kinder than the wilderness of the city.

Activity 4: Sketch the Steps of Benares   

Complete page 45 in 'Third Grade Prose Copywork and Dictation.'

  • Study the image of the Benares steps leading to the Ganges. Make a quick pencil sketch of the steps and the Ganges.

Activity 5: Map the Story

  • This chapter takes place in the city of Benares on the Ganges river in the country of India.
  • Find the city of Benares and the Ganges river within India.


Question 1

How does Kopee torment the parrot?
1 / 6

Answer 1

Kopee torments the parrot by plucking its feathers off.
1 / 6

Question 2

What do pilgrims do at the Ghaut?
2 / 6

Answer 2

The pilgrims descend the Ghaut to bathe and pray in the Ganges.
2 / 6

Question 3

What is the only animal an elephant fears?
3 / 6

Answer 3

The only animal an elephant fears is the mouse.
3 / 6

Question 4

What does Kopee steal?
4 / 6

Answer 4

Kopee steals a purse.
4 / 6

Question 5

Why does Kari leave the city and submerge himself in the Ganges?
5 / 6

Answer 5

Kari is upset when he accidentally kills an attacking dog.
5 / 6

Question 6

What is a 'wilderness of stones?'
6 / 6

Answer 6

A 'wilderness of stones' is a city.
6 / 6

  1. How does Kopee torment the parrot? Kopee torments the parrot by plucking its feathers off.
  2. What do pilgrims do at the Ghaut? The pilgrims descend the Ghaut to bathe and pray in the Ganges.
  3. What is the only animal an elephant fears? The only animal an elephant fears is the mouse.
  4. What does Kopee steal? Kopee steals a purse.
  5. Why does Kari leave the city and submerge himself in the Ganges? Kari is upset when he accidentally kills an attacking dog.
  6. What is a 'wilderness of stones?' A 'wilderness of stones' is a city.