What laid the foundation to the origin of India’s greatest storybook- The Panchatantra?

The one flock of tales that each one of us are grown up with is the India’s greatest storybook-The Panchatantra. This typical storybook of authentic India is known to contain the most amazing collection of stories.

Panchatantra is a Neeti-Shastra or textbook of “Moral”. The word “Neeti” means roughly “the wise conduct of life”. It is an ancient Indian collection of inter-related animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose. The earliest recorded work, attributed to Vishnu Sharma, dates back about 300 BCE. The fables are likely much older, having been passed down generations orally.

“Panchatantra” is a combination of the words Pancha which means Five in Sanskrit. And Tantra that means weave. Literally translated, it means interweaving five skeins of traditions and teachings into a text.

Origins of Panchatantra

Long time ago, there lived a king called Amarshakti, who ruled the kingdom of Mahilaropya. He was a good and a kind man and also a very able administrator of his kingdom. The king had three sons namely – Bahushakti, Ugrashakti and Anantshakti.

While the King was extremely busy in the matters of his state and could not spend much time with his family his sons grew up with lack of education. As he got older, he decided to crown one of his sons as the King after him. But his sons were not capable of learning anything in school or about the stately arts of ruling the kingdom.

As the King learnt that his sons were supreme blockheads, he finally decided to find a solution to this problem. He discussed it with his ministers and one of the minsters -suggested, ‘Science, Politics and diplomacy were limitless and it would take your whole life time to master them…Instead of teaching the princes scriptures and texts, we have to teach them the wisdom within them…! We could call in Vishnu Sharma….’

Vishnu Sharma- a Brahman was an excellent guru, with a reputation for competence in numerous sciences. He could teach Nithi Shastra in a very short period and in the greatest manner for a lifetime.

These princes could not be taught by conventional teaching. They had to be taught stories in a simpler manner so that they could grasp it easily. Probably using animals and teach morals to them…and to teach them the art of managing the kingdom after their father…This is how they could be capable of ruling the state further.

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The very next day the princes left with their Guru to his hermitage. During the course of teaching the princes, Vishnu Sharma compiled the Panchatantra – book based on animal stories and moral. Most of the stories were written by Vishnu Sharma himself combining the morals of life. However some stories were 1000 years older and Vishnu Sharma incorporated these stories inside the main story.

Vishnu Sharma composed five books and named them accordingly:

– The Loss of Friends
– The winning of Friends
– Crows and Owls
– Loss of Gains
– Ill- Considered Action

He composed the stories in such a way that each collection of story started with one main story, with other stories woven inside the main story. Each story gave insight into politics and practical wisdom as the essence or moral of the story was always similar to what a person would face in his everyday life.

These tales from the epic Panchatantra, is believed to be the most authentic way of incorporating morals in little children right in the tender age of learning. But this practice of reading Panchatantra tales has lost its trail in the present modern times, as kids these days are more dragged to gadgets and androids. This tale is yet another example that our country is losing its roots in a much deeper manner than we could imagine.




The story of origins behind India’s greatest storybook – The Panchatantra