22. Rhinos and Hippos

Naradha told them about the great Sahara desert in the north. “Avoid that! If you travel east, you can see great lakes and mountains. From there a great river called Nile flows towards the northern sea. That is probably the longest river in the globe. Then you can reach the northern border of this continent.” So saying he disappeared.

Karimukha walked towards east. They crossed the river Upangi. Further travelling they crossed the upper reaches of river Zaire. In that river they sighted a grand waterfall Boloma. The river Zaire’s sources were in the Ruvenzori mountains. They crossed the mountain and reached the eastern slopes. There was a large, sea-like lake Ruvenzori (Victoria) they went further east and saw the Kilimanjaro mountain. In between the Ruvenzori mountains and these eastern chain of mountains there was a plain called Serengeti, which lay in a north-south direction. The southern border of this plain was lake Nyasa. In this plain there were many water bodies and marshes.

In one of the rivers there were many Hippopotamuses. They were swimming in the water and at times basking in the sun. They were at home in the water. In spite of such an enormous size and shape, they swam easily.

Krishna and Balarama stood in the shore and observed their movements with interest. Karimukha approached one hippo and talked to him. He became his friend. Karimukha called him his counter part in water! He elicited information about their life style. Hippo said they feed on the underwater vegetations like Algae, fishes etc. in the deep water they put a cover on their nose and move. However they have to come out for breathing. At best they are good divers. With its enormous shape it can run fast on the ground. It they are provoked they may even over power a running man it claimed!

They moved further. From the bushes on the bank a female Rhinoceros came with her two young ones for drinking water. Karimukha’s new friend, a hippo which followed Karimukha told him in a low voice: “This animal, called Rhino, has got enormous sharpness in smelling and hearing but somewhat dull eye-sight. These Rhinos are flat mouthed. In some species it will be pointed.

On its body it has smeared mud which makes its body look like sandalwood. But in some parts its original colour could be seen as a bluish purple. People call it white and black but their colour is the colour of the mud only!”

The hippo continued, “We are not dirty like you, we are always bathing!”

“We do smear dust all over our bodies, but we take a bath after that”, claimed Karimukha.

Balarama asked why rhinos smeared mud over themselves. The hippo answered, “It gives them protection from the sun’s heat. They are six feet tall and length up to fifteen feet. Even though they are big they are not bad. For defense they may adopt a threatening pose, but run away. They feed on grass and the stems of wild grass. Because of their size they have only a few enemies – such as lions and crocodiles.

“The greatest enemy to all is man. Because man has powerful weapons and still inventing”, laughed Krishna.

Some birds were riding on the rhinos and pecking. Probably by pecking and eating the worms they were helping the beast.! Not only that, they alerted them whenever there was danger.

Suddenly the birds chirped and warned. The hippo was alarmed and ran to the water to hide. Some hunters hiding behind the tall grass aimed at the rhino. Krishna and Balarama quickly came near Karimukha. Karimukha lifted them to their seat on its back and stood shielding the rhino and its offspring.

Krishna aimed his Chakra towards the bushes. The Chakra rained fire on the grass. There was wild fire in the bushes and it spread at an alarming speed. The spears thrown by the hunters were beaten down by the club of Balarama. The fire was driving the hunters away. They were terrorized by the spreading fire and ran back abandoning their hunting expedition. A dark cloud appeared in the sky and rained over the fire.

In a short time the hippo returned with its friends. Many other rhinos also collected around Karimukha. They were celebrating the defeat of the hunters at the hands of divine persons. Naradha also joined as usual. It was funny to watch the hippos and rhinos dance with their heavy bodies!

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