Stories are the elixir of life. Imagine if we had no stories, no wonderful tales that were woven around subjects to teach, entertain or form opinions. Children, of course, are delighted when stories are told, but we adults don’t mind a good story either. The Panchatantra Tales are one of the oldest tales of India, written in Sanskrit with the aim of imparting lessons on ‘niti’, which means, ‘the wise conduct of life’.
Why were the Panchatantra Tales written?
The story behind the Panchatantra Tales is quite interesting. It is believed that a king entrusted his three sons to a learned Brahmin to teach them values, morals and governing skills within six months. This learned Brahmin was none other than Pandit Vishnu Sharma, who is attributed to be the main author of the Panchatatantra Tales and who used these very tales as educational tools and life lessons for his students. Many experts do believe that Vishnu Sharma may as well be a pseudo name and hence the world really is not too sure of who the real writer or writers of the Panchatanatra Tales are.
About the PanchatantraTales
The Panchatantra Tales, as the name suggests, are divided into five parts. The series are interwoven tales based on animals and trees, who humanize characters and dialogues. Each part has a main or ‘frame’ story which consists of several stories as one character narrates the story to another. Again, some of these stories also consist of another sub-story. The entire work looks much like the Russian dolls with one narration leading to one story, enfolding another one within its fold.
The five parts of the Panchatantra Tales are extremely well formulated and each series has a main message or lesson.
The Mitra-bheda is the first of the five parts and is based on how close friends can be lost. Here enemies try and create situations that lead to the estrangement and misunderstanding between good friends. Some of the popular stories in this part include the Loss of Friends, The Jackal and the War-Drum, The Weaver’s Wife, The Ungrateful Man, The Lion and the Carpenter, The Shrewd Old Gander and many more.
The second part is called the Mitra-samprapti. This section is the opposite of the first one. Here stories elucidate how friends can be gained back and how friendships can be strengthened. This section is also a collection of four principal characters, the crow, mouse, turtle and deer that are featured in various scenarios to tell the stories. Some popular stories in this section are the Winning of Friends, The Mice that set the elephant free, Hang-Ball and Greedy, Gold’s Gloom and more.
The third section is Kakolukiyam. This section is all about war, battle or conflict strategies and how with wit and intelligence the enemy’s army can be neutralized. Its emphasis is on the battle of wits rather than the battle of swords. The animals used here are characterized by their inherent virtues, such as the crows are good and weak, whereas, the owls are evil. The stories included in this section are the The Brahmin’s Goat, Crows and Owls, The Cat’s Judgment, The Self-sacrificing Dove, The Cave that Talked and more.
The fourth part is known as Labdhapranasam. This is a collection of various morals, such as ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ or ‘how gains can be lost if not protected or sustained’. The series is a compilation of stories that enforce positive behavior that should be pursued or followed. The stories in this series include the The Jackal who killed no Elephants, The Ass in the Tiger skin, Flop-Ear and Dusty, The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Dog who went abroad and more.
The last section is called Apariksitakarakam. This series is the opposite of the fourth section. Here stories teach of negative behavior and traits that should not be pursued. The stories also show the consequences of bad or negative characteristics and emphasis on morals, such as, ‘don’t build castles in the air’ or ‘don’t act in haste and regret later’. Stories from section include The Loyal Mongoose, The Musical Donkey, The Credulous Fiend, The Friend who washed his feet and more.
Translations and adaptations
The Panchatantra Tales remains the iconic story teller with its simple yet important themes and ideas. There has been a lot of work done over the centuries to translate and make these stories understandable and relatable to the layman. Believed to have been written in 200 BCE these Tales have withstood the test of time and transcended boundaries, languages and generations. The Tales have been translated into Hindi, English and almost all regional languages of India. Besides, its earliest translation was in Middle Persian in the 550 CE by Bruzoe. The text has also been translated and read in the countries of Persia, Arabia, Greece and Europe. Today of course, the Tales are accessible across the globe.
The Panchatantra Tales are the legendary stories that have imparted values, morals and insight to generations of kids and adults alike. Stories have been much around before the media took over and their power over the minds of especially little ones makes them an important tool of imparting and building good behavior and character. Undoubtedly, the Panchatantra Tales are probably the best kind of stories that you can tell your children and in turn learn something yourself too.