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Panchtantra Stories

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Introduction to Panchtantra Stories

Panchtantra stories are very famous stories for children in India. Every child is most likely to know at least one story from Panchtantra. They are very educational and interesting. They were originally written in Sanskrit language. According to some authors The Panchtantra stories collection is the oldest story collection survived today. In course of time, people took these stories through Persia, Arabia and Greece etc countries to European countries. A collection of these stories has been found in pre-Islamic Iran in Pahalavee language sometimes in 6th century AD. Then Greek translated them around 11th century AD, and from that translation those stories were translated in other European languages. In fact Panchtantra has 200 versions in 50 or more languages now-a-days. Literary critics have noted a strong similarity between Panchtantra stories and Aesop Fables.

This work reached Europe around as early as the 11th century, and before 1600, it existed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Old Slavonic, Czech, and perhaps in other Slavonic languages. Its range has extended from Java to Iceland. In France, "at least eleven Panchatantra tales are included in the work of La Fontaine".

All these stories are connected to Indian Neeti Shaastra (moral science or wise conduct in life). Every story teaches us something or the other, such as "how to understand people",  "how to choose reliable and trustworthy friends", "how to face difficulties and solve them with wisdom", and "how to live in peace with harmony".

These tales are revolved around a tale of a King Amarshakti of Mahilaaropya who gives his three foolish sons to a learned Braahman named Vishnu Sharmaa to teach them in six months. Vishnu Sharmaa promises the King to do so and takes those sons to his Aashram. There he teaches them through short stories which were composed especially for them. His claim is that a man who has studied this Neeti Shaastra or listened to its principles will never be defeated, not even by Indra, the Lord of the Heaven.

They are divided in five Tantra and thus are called the Stories of Panch Tantra - Panch means five and Tantra means a thing to earn a kind of quick gain, so Panch Tantra means five rules to make a quick gain or five rules by which a human being can succeed in his life. These five strategies are -

(1) Discord among friends
(2) Gaining friends
(3) Of crows and owls
(4) Loss of gains, and
(5) Imprudence

Vishnu Sharmaa has set these stories in such a way that one story leads to another story. Each Tantra starts with a main story and other stories are woven in one another by the narrator. The characters in a story tell other stories, based on different situations or contexts.

These tales are very similar to Arabian Nights Tales which were also interwoven in their own way, although with different purpose and in a different way. Besides these tales are educational, while those tales are for entertainment.

Panchtantra book is a rare kind book in which you will find philosophy, politics, music astronomy, human relationship etc all discussed together - and surprisingly through all this through animals, thus these stories are free of any cultural effects. These stories can change our perspectives on many daily challenges that we face in life, because they relate to everyday life situations and show a moral and realistic approach to successful living. These stories are designed as bed time stories but daytime constructs of wisdom where life is understood by constructing meaning and intellectual stimulation.

That is how Vishnu Sharmaa taught those princes through theses stories. These stories were not only helpful for those princes or children, but they are useful for the elders and today too.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on August 9, 2007
Modified on 05/06/13