Panchatantra Series

Image: Multiple sources

Stories are magical, they carry us to another vibrant world. They allow us to create wonderful characters and color them with our imagination. Stories are very important, especially for kids.

Telling stories to kids is a nice experience that improves the bonding between kids and parents and opens up conversations. Storytelling could enhance the communication skills for both kids and parents. As an adult, we could read a different genre of stories. However, some kids stories and fables that we heard/read in our childhood, stay longer with us.

What we learn with fun, we can remember better and longer. Stories could enhance that fun factor in learning and the emotions attached with them would make them vivid and effective.

Panchatantra stories are my all time favorite and loved to read them as a kid and now enjoy telling them to kids. These stories are relevant at any age and involvement of anthropomorphized animals, make them more entertaining for kids. I still remember the colorful illustration of those characters from Amara Chitra Katha which are etched in my mind. Reading the stories from Panchatantra is like recollecting childhood friends and fun memories.

Panchatantra is the collection of ancient Indian fables, written in Sanskrit. They were supposedly written by the scholar Vishnu Sharma in 300 BC. He was asked by the King to educate three princes, who were not good in learning. The scholar, Vishnu Sharma took it as a challenge and devised a new method to educate them through the stories. Thus, Panchatantra came into this world! The word Panchatantra could be roughly translated as five treatises or five systems/techniques, which got the name from five branches it contains.

  • Mitra-bheda or losing/splitting friends
  • Mitra-lābha or winning friends
  • Kākolūkīyam or stories on crows and owls
  • Labdhapraṇāśam or loss of gains
  • Aparīkṣitakārakam or hasty actions

Panchatantra stories are available in more than 50 languages and existed in many foreign languages by 1600 AD. So they would have got woven in other cultures too other than India. I am not so sure to the extent to which they would have reached the current generation in other countries. With many kids TV channels and Youtube, do not have any idea on outreach of these stories to the young generation. These stories are close to my childhood. Would like to have a blog series to retell them with short notes and think about Niti/lessons from the story. Love to hear from the readers on your views and take away from these fables.

Let me start with a simple story of the Tortoise and the geese.

The tortoise and the geese

There was a tortoise in a lake. It had many friends like geese, frogs, and fishes and they all lived happily.

Once there was a drought. No rain and the lake was getting drained. Fishes, frogs, and other creatures were dying. It was tough to survive there. The geese could fly around and it was easy for them to shift to a new location. While talking to them, the tortoise came to know about another lake in the nearby forest. But it was quite far from this lake and was tough for the tortoise to reach there on its own. Somehow, the tortoise had to reach the new lake for its survival. There was no other way.

So the tortoise and the geese had a discussion to look for a solution for this challenge. The geese were keen to help their friend and take along with them to the new lake. They came up with an idea. It was decided that two geese would carry a stick by holding two ends with their beaks. The geese asked the tortoise to hold on to the stick at the middle, by its mouth. They also warned the tortoise, not to speak while flying. So, the geese were ready to carry the Tortoise and they started the journey.

When they were on the way, the tortoise was the first time in the air and was elated with the experience and was watching the world from the top. It observed that people are looking surprisingly at this wonderful sight. They were praising the wisdom of the geese and the tortoise. The tortoise could not resist the excitement and wanted to talk about their adventure. Unknowingly it opened the mouth and fell into death, as it lost the grip on the stick. Moral of the story says Silence is Golden.

Let us look at this story from the aspects of the present context. What are the lessons we can take for ourselves?

  • Silence is golden
  • Think twice before you talk
  • Be responsible for your actions
  • Help people who are ready for it. Otherwise, it may harm them.
  • Calculate the risk in any endeavor, either you are a beneficiary or the one who is providing support.
  • Don’t get influenced by the surroundings.
  • Don’t get carried away by the flattery

Let your imagination free, write your own lesson! What is your take away from this story, share your comments.

—Anitha KC

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