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What Pearls of Wisdom are Held in the Animal Tales of the Panchatantra?

Sunday, February 26, 2017 7:19
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From the same 1429 Persian manuscript. Sañjīvaka/Schanzabeh.

The Panchatantra (which means the ‘Five Principles’ in Sanskrit) is a collection of interwoven short stories from India. The tales in the Panchatantra are told in both prose and poetry, and consist mainly of animal tales. This has led some scholars to note similarities between this collection of stories and Aesop’s fables. The Panchatantra is recorded to have migrated westwards into Persia, Arabia, and thence into Europe. In addition, these tales were also transmitted northwards into Tibet and China, as well as eastwards into Southeast Asia.

Teaching Important Lessons

It has been proposed that the Panchatantra was composed during the 3rd century BC by an Indian scholar and author by the name of Vishnu Sharma. Nevertheless, the tales were probably transmitted orally at first, and hence date to an earlier period of Indian history. These stories may have been first told by villagers as they gathered around campfires after a day’s work. The tales also contained valuable lessons, and served not only as light entertainment but also as a tool for teaching.

A 'Panchatantra' relief at the Mendut temple, Central Java, Indonesia. – Reconstructing the story of humanity’s past


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