Panchatantra Stories are what we all have grown up reading and listening to. I reckon as a child, they were my favorite stories. Not only did these stories entertained the child in me but also imparted valuable moral lessons to me.
How to be a good friend, how to differentiate between the right and the wrong and how to behave socially are some of the lessons which these stories taught me. And they remain with me even now, when I am all grown up and mother of a child. Perhaps, that is the reason I read these stories to my child as well.
History of Panchatantra
Panchatantra was written somewhere around 2nd– 3rdBC by Pundit Vishnu Sharma. This dated composition is still alive and published in various languages, speaks about it’s popularity and impact.
The history of Panchatantra is as interesting as the stories itself. According to belief Pt. Vishnu Sharma, along with other scholars, wrote Panchatantra to teach three Hindu princes principles and wise conduct of life.
The beauty of Panchatantra lies in the fact that this philosophy of life has remained the same across centuries. The deep-rooted values of life that Panchatantra embodies have stood the test of time and remained unshaken.
Stories to Read from Panchatantra
Panchatantra is a compound word comprising of two Sanskrit words:
Pancha: Meaning five
Tantra: The art or wise conduct of living
As evident from its title, Panchatantra comprises of 5 sections with each detailing specific life lessons.
1. Mitra-Bheda: This is the first and the longest volume of Panchatantra. Mitra meaning ‘friend’ and Bheda meaning ‘differences’, this volume talks about friends and how to keep friendships through a series of tales.
- Monkey and The Wedge: This story imparts lesson on the significance of not poking nose in other people’s businesses. Narrated through the character of a monkey, this story delivers the quintessential message.
- The Jackal and the Drum: An interesting tale about overcoming our fears, this is a must read. The story revolves around a jackal who learns to conquer his fear and be brave.
- The Crane and the Crafty Crab: This tale has been adapted in many languages and has many versions, all emphasizing the power of brain over muscle.
- The Foolish Crane and the Mongoose: This is a lesser-known tale but delivers a strong message about strategy and foresightedness. It talks about a crane which takes the advice of a crab without completely realizing its consequences. Thus, bearing loss of its children.
- The King and the Foolish Monkey: Another great story from Panchatantra that talks about the perils of a foolish friend.
2. Mitra-lábha: The second volume of Panchatantra ‘Mitra-Labha’ comprises of stories ascertaining the value of friendship in life. Through its simple stories revolving around animals, this volume weaves its magic on children and helps them understand the essence of friendship. Stories to read from this volume:
- Four Friends: A wonderful tale about four friends and how they help each other when in trouble. This story is a perfect for teaching the value of friendship and appreciating each other’s differences.
- The Hermit and the Mouse: This story revolves around a hermit and a foolish, proud mouse. The story ends with a beautiful lesson on how pride can be one’s own enemy.
- The talkative tortoise: This is a very famous fable from Panchatantra. It is story of three friends, 2 swans and a tortoise. A must read.
3. Kákolùkïyam – Of Crows and Owls: This is the third volume of Panchatantra. This volume presents the golden rules of friendship and helps identify friends from enemies.
- The Elephants and the Hares: This story ascertains the value of choosing a wise leader. Once a group of elephants were causing menace to hares, destroying their homes. However, an intelligent hare thought of a wise trick and saved the day.
- The Cunning Mediator: A story about how quarrelling does no one good to anyone. This short moral story talks about a sparrow and a rabbit that quarreled. Seizing an opportunity in their difference, a cat devoured them both.
- The Brahmin and the Crooks: This short story imparts an significant lesson – weak when united can defeat a wise man.
4. Labdhapranásam – Loss of Gains: The fourth part of Panchatantra highlights the power of remaining calm even in troublesome situations.
- Monkey and Crocodile: This is a very famous fable from Panchatantra. It is based on the previous volume’s lesson of choosing friends wisely and how to act in a dire situation. It brings forth a strong lesson of staying calm when in danger.
- Lion and the Foolish Donkey: A story about a Lion, Jackal and a foolish donkey.This story revolves how a jackal fools a donkey not once but twice, finally costing the donkey its life.
- Washerman and his Donkey: This story illustrates how we can never hide our true nature how hard we try. It is a story of a washerman’s donkey who covers itself in tiger skin and feasts on farmer’s farm until the day it’s true identity is discovered.
- The Jackal’s Strategy: A story about how wit and intelligence can help. This story talks about a Jackal who finds a dead elephant but does not know how to tear its hide and how it manipulates other animals to get what it wants.
5. Aparïksitakárakam: This is the last volume of Panchatantra and talks about the moral teaching and conduct of life. It lists the stories on how recklessness can be dangerous.
- The Brahmani and the Mongoose: This is a story of a Brahmin family who had a pet mongoose. This story illustrates how making a hasty decision can lead to grief and sorrow.
- The Lion who Sprang to Life: This is a great story of wisdom and teaches that it is common sense which is the greatest knowledge. Another important lesson it imparts is that it is not good to be proud.
- Two Fishes and a Frog: A fable of wisdom, this story is about two fishes and a frog. When they hear the fishermen gossiping about catching the fish in the pond, the wise frog decided to leave. But against his advise the two fishes stay and meet their untimely end.
- The Bird with two heads: Once there lives a bird with two heads. One day, one head got angry with the other which finally lead to their death.
All the stories of Panchatantra impart a great moral lesson in the end. These moral stories do not only enlighten children but also adults. Each story has been composed with great care to help the reader understand its message.
Depiction of animals makes these stories easy to remember and fun for children. No wonder through these stories the three princes learned the conduct of life in a short span of six months.
These short stories for children make a perfect bedtime read. They also double up as moral stories for children. Panchatantra is definitely a must have for every family.
Here are a few titles we recommend:
365 Panchatantra Stories: A story for every day of the year, this book offers an exhaustive collection of Panchtantra tales.
Panchatantra: This title claims to have translated the original version into English.
Timeless Tales from Panchatantra: This version is great for younger readers as it has big font size and attractive pictures. It features selected tales from Panchtantra.
The Best of Panchatantra: This title features forty popular tales from Panchtantra. It is reasonably priced and has large illustratations.
Over time, Panchatantra has been translated into various languages. This set of moral stories for kids has travelled as far as Persia, Greece, Arabia, Japan and even European continent. This makes Panchatantra one of the most translated and adapted literacy works of all the time. Certainly a must read for all children and families