Immortal Sanskrit Literature & Scriptures

Timeless Wisdom for Modern Times: Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra – Stories of Good Governance and Practical Wisdom from Ancient India

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ॐ श्री गुरुभ्यो नमः ॐ श्री शिवानन्दाय नमः ॐ श्री चिदानन्दाय नमः ॐ श्री दुर्गायै नमः 

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The Panchatantra ( Sanskrit: पञ्चतन्त्र, “Five Treatises”) is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, arranged within a frame story. Panchatantra is dated to about 300 BCE, but the fables are in all probability far far more ancient, as many of the knowledgeable Indians believe.

The text’s author has been attributed to Vishnu Sharma in some recensions and Vasubhaga in a few others, both of which may be fictitious pen names, according to Western Scholars.

In all probability, Panchatantra Stories are based on older oral traditions with animal fables, that are as old & ancient as we are able to imagine.

It is certainly the most frequently translated literary work of India, and these stories are among the most widely known stories in the world. It goes by many names in many cultures.

There is a version of Panchatantra in nearly every major language of India, and in addition there are 200 versions of the text in more than 50 languages around the world. 

Interested in buying Panchatantra to narrate these joyous stories of practical wisdom to the little ones in the family?

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A mere look at the following fun-filled pictures of India’s Panchatantra tales, would depict how beautifully our Indian sages in the most hoary past, have used the innocent animals and birds of the Great God’s creation, to convey the practical Truths and Wisdom of human-life to guileless children, through entertaining stories, so that these lessons of Wisdom and Eternal Truths get indelibly impressed in their most impressionable tender minds, right in their childhood years, and becomes a great guide to them in their later years to lead an intelligent smart life in the real everyday practical world.


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The prelude section of the Panchatantra in most places identifies an octogenarian learned Brahmin named Vishnu Sharma (Sanskrit: Viṣṇuśarman) as its author. He is stated to be teaching the principles of good governance & practical wisdom, to the three dud & utterly ignorant princes of the kingdom of Amarasakti in India.

Based on the content and mention of the same name in several texts dated to ancient and medieval centuries, most scholars feel that the name ‘Vishnu Sharma’ is a fictitious name. Regardless of who the author was, Panchatantra stories are one of its kind in the world full of practical wisdom for children & grown-ups alike

As already mentioned, the fables of Panchatantra are found in numerous languages of the world.

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In the Indian tradition, The Panchatantra is a Nītiśāstra. Nīti can be roughly translated as “the wise conduct of life” and a Sāstra is a treatise. Thus Panchatantra is considered a treatise on political science and human conduct.  It draws from the Dharma and Artha Sāstras, quoting them extensively..

It is also explained in Panchatantra through stories that Nīti represents an admirable attempt to answer the insistent question of ‘how to win the utmost possible joy from the life in the practical world’, and that Nīti is the harmonious development of the inherent powers of man in life, a life in which security, prosperity, resolute action, friendship, and good learning are so combined as to produce immense joy, and make the life worth living.

For a list of stories in the Panchatantra, see List of Panchatantra Stories.

Panchatantra deploy metaphors of anthropomorphized animals with human virtues and vices. 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, Panchatantra consists of five parts. Each part contains a main story, which in turn contains several stories inserted into it, as one character narrates a story to another. Often these stories contain further inserted stories.

The stories thus operate like a succession of  one narrative opening within another, sometimes three or four even. Besides the stories, the characters also quote various epigrammatic verses to make their point indelible in the minds of readers.

The five books of Panchatantra have their own subtitles.

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