We live in a world where several mysteries lie before us resolved in bare state. Scientific revolution and advancements in communication technology have brought about a new way of our looking at the world. It is not always pleasant and when we look over the shoulder it is with an awe and pleasure as to how we knew it all anyway but our world was more composite. The past has always been enchanting and it still gladdens the heart and uplifts consciousness to have a look at the firmament we were so familiar and free with so far.
The editor of the present series welcome the reader into the pleasure of a participative stroll into some major works of Sanskrit literature that are a heritage of Indian lore. Books Panchatantra or Gems of Indian Thought, Hitopadesh or The Benevolent Saying, Vikramaditya-Veital Tales or The Tales of Riddles, Jatakmala or The Pearls of Indian Wisdom, The Life & Times of King Bhoj or Bhoj Prabandha and Fairy Dolls & Vikramaditya's Legendary Throne are entertaining, informing and illustrative of universal and eternal values. I am sure the reader would find these an enriching experience. Simple language and clear narration, I am sure, will be welcomed by readers of all ages. -Editor
The world over children’s fiction is replete with tales carrying messages for the young ones’ intellectual growth. Set in simple narration, through interactions between different individuals and even animals, birds or fish, matters of deep import are stated in simple language in the literature written for young ones. Aesop’s fables, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Gulliver’s Travels, Treasure Island, the Mowghli Tales, Panchtantra, Hitopdesh, Vikram-Veital Tales, Jatakmala, Arabian Nights, Kissa Hatimtai fall in one line.
In Indian thought there is one difference which sets it apart from the rest of the world and which is amply reflected in its literature. That is its composite nature. There are no loose ends. A complete diction is a lifetime’s tale, with all the pros and cons explained in interesting manner. Panchtantra is a classic example of this. There are human types, bird types, animal types, aquatic types interacting in a series of situations that unfold tragic events and their significance heart—warming relations and their impact; and war situations as reflection of the grim realities of life.
‘Mitrabhed’ sets the pace of Panchtantra. At one level, it is the story of evolution, the transformation of a blade of grass into beasts of burden; into ferocious animals, into wily go between beasts, who include humans.
‘Mitrasamprapti’ eulogises the pattern of life outside the family fold, which means exclusion of the female species from a circle of friends. The clear commentary is that family structure though basic to social framework is fraught with deceptions, evil doings, violence etc. leading to wars, pestilences and upheavals in nature.
‘Ath kakoluliyam’ is a longish narration. It is war zone. The crow clan and the owl clan are natural foes. The twain shall never meet. The war strategy of crows includes truce; guerilla attacks, fleeing, sabotage or fraud. The crows decide on entering the enemy line and creating a no—lose situation. Once the basic tone is set, it is easy win for crows and thence to the plans for a crow empire. °Labdhpranasham’ is a sort of apology for ‘Ath kakoluliyam’ A shift in focus from war to situation of peace and the hurdles in the same in society. The study points out that the female is an unmistakable source of misery and disturbance in order. She has to be kept under strict and severe control system in order that some semblance of sanity might prevail. In a series of dialogues between a monkey and an alligator this is beautifully explained.
‘Aparikshitkarakam’ is a severe commentary against as well as a gentle advice about greed. It sets on that contentment is the greatest treasure as well as the most convenient device against all sorts of disasters. Those who pursue against sane advice, their fortunes meet a fate that no one would envy of the four Brahmins who set only to attain their promised wealth, the fourth believes he can beat them all. A rolling painful wheel that sets on his head in his pursuit, is a graphic description of how relentlessly fates work.
The book is pervaded by a quaint humour which transfers to the animal kingdom all sorts of human action. Thus animals devote themselves to the study of the Vedas and to the practices of religious rites; they engage in disquisitions about gods, saints and heroes, or exchange views regarding subtle rules of ethics, but suddenly their fierce animal nature breaks out. A pious cat, for instance, called upon to act as umpire in a dispute between a sparrow and a monkey, inspires such confidence in the litigants, by a long discourse on the vanity of life and the supreme importance of virtue that they come close up in order to hear better the words of wisdom. In an instant he seizes one of the disputants with his claws, the other with his teeth and devours them both. Very humorous is the story of the conceited musical donkey. Trespassing one moonlight night into a cucumber field, he feels impelled to sing and answers the objections of his friend, the jackal by a lecture on the charms of music. He then begins to bray, arouses the watchmen and receives a sound drubbing. With abundant irony and satire the most various human vices are exposed, among others the hypocrisy and avarice of Brahmans. The intriguing character of courtiers and the faithlessness of women. A vigorous popular spirit of reaction against Brahman pretensions here finds expression and altogether a sound and healthy view of life prevails, forming a refreshing contrast to the exaggeration found in many branches of Indian literature.
SASKRIT LITERATURE: is a storehouse of legends and Stories, Perhaps it is a result of our peninsular geography. People In those early days deprived of intercourse with other nations, culture people were supplied with interesting, entertaining, informative, interactive or narrative tales as a divesion from their relentless boredom. Thus, we have anthologies of folk tales, fables, narrations and epics that are an important contribution to world literature. Prominent works of literature Kathasaritsagar, Brihat Kathamanjari, Bhoj Prabandh, Panchtantra, Kathamuktawali, Jatakmala are tomes that are unparalleled in the world. There are constructions in these anthologies that would be beyond the conceptual domain of writers today. The larger body of available literature today consists of narrations that are generally incomplete without giving the final resolution of events, characters and episodic developments. With ends losing track, the story line often gets restricted to disparate descriptions that focus on an aspect or two of life. The result of this trend is a reading people that remains groping for answers and this situation often having a reflection in real life — reason why anxiety and tension are a common feature of the modern world. Who is responsible for this predicament? The conditions are such that modern writers even consider it a hallmark success to bring the reader to a pitch of suspense and then letting him resolve the situation. Often, it leads to a sense of delusion and of frustration in the minds of the reader and explosive mind—set that sees bleakness as the feature of life!
COMPLETE PICTURE: Sanskrit literature is free of this blame. Here episodes, narrations, characterisations move in an even pace and are rounded off by explanations that transcend the normal to give a complete picture. Often, this has relaxing effect on the reader which reflects on his day--to-day activities and the general improved milieu of our society. If we compare the modern paced life available in cities to the more placid but satisfied life of the rural folk, we would find that there is not much difference in their understanding of things in either case, but that the latter have come to wisdom through knowledge of sorrow and they desist from moving ahead even when given a chance. This is because their mettle is ingrained with centuries’ old narrative legends and folk tales that inform without exciting and entertain without despoiling their moral, social and intellectual frame.
LONG NARRATIONS: In this, long narrative literature occupies a special place in Sanskrit writing. Its originality, its deftness in caricaturing human types and delineating finest emotions are all—pervading. The purely entertainn1ent—oriented mind of Indian people, its purely imaginative qualities have permeated Sanskrit literature thoroughly.
Narrative literature is divided into two major streams —Fables and Allegories. The former are replete with morals, the basic tendency of humans since times immemorial to guide and mould or hers into desirable social behavior. The effort to arouse in them the three fundamental human aspirations of Dharma, Aretha, Kama — righteousness, politics and sexual communion - as also values of courtesy, sane social interaction, respect for institutions and persons are the basic guiding tenets of Sanskrit writing. There are efforts, at the same time, to introduce spiritual matters ever so slightly. Often, the subjects are animals and birds and they are one education medium essential for human growth. Although the style is simple and descriptive, a closer look reveals deeper aspects at the very base— the phonetics, the imagery, the narrations themselves.
These tales contain both prose and poetry. The prose compositions carry the tale forward while stanzaic portions encapsulate serious, finer aspects in simple language and rhythmic form. The writing of any new major work enlisted the support of traditional word—of -mouth utility axioms fitted into a story form to be embedded in the mind. This gave rise to one moral statement leading to the next logical statement, one story emerging from the overflow of the first to form a composite work of significance. Often, fables are interesting, heart—warming and uplifting since they inform and teach as well as entertain.
V I lie narrative allegorical tales are often historical and recapitulative in nature apart from having imaginative parts and incidental episodic diversions. Often, it is imagination—based literature introducing elements of stranger aspects of reality character, curiosity, comedy, irony, humor and teachings.
Just when narrative literature incepted as a writing code cannot be definitively placed. Even so tracing the dialogues between Sage Ma r 1 n and the fish God in Rig Veda, one places the ancient origins of narrative literature likewise. In effect, the narrations based on animals and birds are traced to Jatakkathas whose refined and derived forms find their place in Brahat Kathamanjari, Katha Sarit Sagar Shuksaptati, Panchtantra et al.
The Panchtantra, presumably composed sometime in 300 A.D. are an important compilation of the studies of society of the earliest days of Indian civilization. Condensed into a brief period, the tales through moralistic stanzas reinforce the basic frame of human development as it took place on Indian soil. The basically rural landscape was conducive to simple living and deep considerations simultaneously. Faith in supernal elements controling the fates of humans and beasts was deep-rooted. The rustice outlook of people in their pastoral milieu was a rich and deep storehouse of emotions that varied in little degrees and gave a precise backdrop to living. The tales in Panchantra still reveal a fund of knowledge that can aid men in their personal, social, economic and political understanding of their surrounding today. The entire book is dotted with axiomatic statements that can be used as well as narrated for explanation of any events or persons. In this respect, the tome is like a gem shinning with eternal messages and guide posts.
PART OF WORLD LITERATURE: As a part of world literature, Panchtantra is a reputed text. Its popularity simplicity and usefulness is well—known. Its bottomline is eduction of moron children of King Vardhman into matters of deep knowledge. Evidently, it has an important place in world writing. After the Bible, perhaps it in the most translated text in the world. Its fist translation was in Pahalvi language where after it was translated in Arabic language. The first edition in Europe was in Latin language, then Italian, German, French, English etc. Whose several editions of English have been brought out. The French one is the most popular still.
In children’s literature whether in the form of fables or allegories, the morals and teachings serve two purposes — to introduce the child to the world of people and to the rites of the passages of life. Aesop’s Fables, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the Arabian Nights, Gulliver’s Travels, Treasure Island and are few texts that stand beside the Panchtantra. This literature placid but deep avoids the gore that defines the actual world it represents. This is purposed to encourage individuals to emerge from their repressive cocoons and live a life that will not only open out newer realities of their world but of themselves also to encourage them to a participative role in world’s reality. Therefore, their simplicity their gloss-overs and their paced developments gradually advancing the subject matter to actual existential risks. If we care to look at it, Panchtantra is a transponderance of the epic Mahabharata, the grand story of the Indian nation’s rise and fall. Compiled around ml century AD it is an exact recapitulation of the Great War in ancient India around 4,000 B.C. Even the characters are, so say experts, actual persons who partook of the events that led to the upheaval now in bird or animal as well as human existence. The crow community may trace its origin to Kauravas, Duryodhan, Dhrtrashtra. The owl group are the Pandavas, Yudhister, Bhishma. In crow minister Sthirjivi (chapter III Ath Kakolukiyam) who penetrates the enemy lines to destroy them, finally, we have our Lord Krishna, Vidur. A close study will reveal Panchtantra to be a simplified account of the Mahabharata war, its desvastating outcome and the lessons to be gleaned from it.
As to the period of its composition little is actually known, as its original version is not available. Its first translation was available in Pahalvi language in the 6th century A.D. and had clear marks of Arthsastra in its basic structure. Apparently, it was first put together in the Gupta period about the time of Kautilya’s Arthsastra which was an important turning point in Indian history with the revolutionary overthrow of the Nand dynasty and inception of Chandragupta Maurya.
POLITICAL TREATISE: As a political treatise encompassing the period of greatest political activity witnessed in India over the post-Vedic (Ramayana period of 10,000-5,000 B.C.) period leading to the Mahabharata War sometime in 4000 BC., the Panchtantra are an unparalleled text. The Bauddhic period (the post-Mahabharata India of 3000 B.C. to 300 B.C.) was a period of historical recapitulation of what the Indian political, social intellectual movement gave to the land. As a kaleidoscopic tome, the Arhtasastra encompassed and preserved the most of all the chief character types, loci points of major events, hierarchical order of Gods, ghosts, spirits and their related mythology and figurative creations. The Arhtasastra built up the social and political graph of Indian scene. It is an honest and complete rendition of actual Indian reality since the earliest days of the civilization. As a recapitulation of the past as well as a starting point of a new reorganising of the forces that now lay fatigued after the Mahabharata war and its far—reaching aftermath and without any heart to carry forward the juggernaut of the Indian history Arhtasastra is an important text.
The defeat of N and dynasty and laying of the foundation of the Maurya dynasty was just the culmination of a cycle and start of another. The post—Bauddhic period of 300 BC to 300 A.D., there by saw recapitulative work in several streams. — Arhtasastra, Panchatantra, Katha Saritsagar Katha Brahatmanjari, Jatak tales etc. are a body of literature with a common objective— to preserve the momentous events surrounding the Mahabharata war.
Thus, we had works that catered to the intelligent mind of the less eager. The fatigued mind of the intelligent was content with imparting and preserving for the posterity simpler and more interesting version of the recent gory history of Indian politics. The Ramayana period 10,000 to 5,000 B.C. (Vedic studies) the Mahabharata period 5,000 B.C. to 4,500 B.C. and the neo- Pauranic period of 500 B.C. to 500 A.D. (the Bauddhic studies or inception of the Universal spirit in Indian mind) were a vast study appropriately covered by the Panchatantra Vikram- Veital Tales, Jatakmala which deigned to do the job without the reader either needing to refer to these developments to he aware of them. As a result, properly speaking the Panchatantra is a (children’s text into deep knowledge’s. The anamoly in the statement is to be noted by the scholarly but the spirit to be actually inbibed by the young. And that is the purpose behind the Panchtantra.
As we have taken up here, the Panchatantra are political treatise sans the knowledge of extraordinary influences actually guiding the character types and actual events that underly the firmament of Indian theology.
THE AUTHOR: There are no details available regarding the Author’s identity, domicile, lineage, parents, children, wife or patrons. One Vishnu Sharma is understood as the original composer of the tome and he is so mentioned in all translations and editions of the book. From the prologue of the book extant we learn that he belonged to a South country named Mahilaropya. But this name is associated with several important anthologies hence his significance as a representative even if imaganitative parsonage by all successive writers is to be considered as the truth. According to the prologue of the book, author Vishnu Sharma of Panchtantra was a scholar of Indian polity having subtle and sharp intelligence.
He had a thorough grounding in policy matters and ancient political treatises. He has acknowledged his indebtedness to all his respected forefathers and collected all popular tales and political treatises to compose the Panchantra tome. He was backed by a deep understanding to guide him in structuring in the book the world of men’s experiences. Going through various literatures and grasping their essence, he reproduced a body of literature as how he read the past. He was fearless and without need of favor when he composed the tome. So. All his sense organs had declined having been satisfied and he had all his desires exhausted when he was contracted by King Amarshakti to educate his idiot and idle children. All offers of reward failed to attract him but his sense of responsibility and the pleasure he would be deriving in bringing the children up to the light of ancient and eternal knowledge’s contained in scriptures prevailed. He was confident that he can accomplish the task in six months, time and gave his solemn promise to the King taking a vow that if he should fail he would give up his right of passage to heaven.
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