An illustration from a Syriac edition dated 1354. The rabbit fools the elephant king by showing him the reflection of the moon.
The Panchatantra (IAST: Pañcatantra, Sanskrit: पञ्चतन्त्र, 'Five Principles') is a collection of originally Indian animal fables in verse and prose. The original Sanskrit work, which some scholars believe was composed in the 3rd century BCE, isattributed to Vishnu Sarma. However, it is based on older oral traditions, including "animal fables that are as old as we are able to imagine". It is "certainly the most frequently translated literary product of India", and these stories are among the most widely known in the world. To quote Edgerton (1924):
…there are recorded over two hundred different versions known to exist in more thanfifty languages, and three-fourths of these languages are extra-Indian. As early as the eleventh century this work reached Europe, and before 1600 it existed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Old Slavonic, Czech, and perhaps other Slavonic languages. Its range has extended from Java to Iceland… [In India,] it has been worked over and over again, expanded, abstracted, turned intoverse, retold in prose, translated into medieval and modern vernaculars, and retranslated into Sanskrit. And most of the stories contained in it have "gone down" into the folklore of the story-loving Hindus, whence they reappear in the collections of oral tales gathered by modern students of folk-stories.
Thus it goes by many names in many cultures. In India itself, it had at least 25recensions, including the Sanskrit Tantrākhyāyikā (Sanskrit: तन्त्राख्यायिका) and inspired the Hitopadesha. It was translated into Pahlavi in 570 CE by Borzūya. This became the basis for a Syriac translation as Kalilag and Damnag and a translation into Arabic in 750 CE by Persian scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa as Kalīlah wa Dimnah (Arabic: كليلة و دمنة). A Persian version from the 12th centurybecame known as Kalila and Dimna (Persian: کلیله و دمنه). Other names include Kalīleh o Demneh or Anvār-e Soheylī (Persian: انوار سهیلی, 'The Lights of Canopus') or The Fables of Bidpai (or Pilpai, in various European languages) or The Morall Philosophie of Doni (English, 1570).
The evil jackal Damanaka meets the innocent bull Sañjīvaka. Indian painting, 1610.
ThePanchatantra is an inter-woven series of colourful fables, many of which involve animals exhibiting animal stereotypes. According to its own narrative, it illustrates, for the benefit of three ignorant princes, the central Hindu principles of nīti. While nīti is hard to translate, it roughly means prudent worldly conduct, or "the wise conduct of life".
Apart from a short introduction — inwhich the author, Vishnu Sarma, is introduced as narrating the rest of the work to the princes — it consists of five parts. Each part contains a main story, called the frame story, which in turn contains several stories "emboxed" in it, as one character narrates a story to another. Often these stories contain further emboxed stories. The stories thus operate like a succession of Russian dolls,one narrative opening within another, sometimes three or four deep. Besides the stories, the characters also quote various epigrammatic verses to make their point.
The five books are called:
* Mitra-bheda: The Separation of Friends (The Lion and the Bull)
* Mitra-lābha or Mitra-samprāpti: The Gaining of Friends (The Dove, Crow, Mouse, Tortoise and Deer)
* Kākolūkīyam: Of Crows andOwls (War and Peace)
* Labdhapraṇāśam: Loss Of Gains (The Monkey and the Crocodile)
* Aparīkṣitakārakaṃ: Ill-Considered Action / Rash deeds (The Brahman and the Mongoose)
Manuscript illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra
Krishna, Arjuna at Kurukshetra, 18-19th century painting.
The Mahabharata (Sanskrit Mahābhārata महाभारत) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics...
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