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Translated from the original and retold by Esther Mary Lyons.
Although the book is no longer availabe, you can continue to enjoy the excerpts here!

 

 

 

CONTENTS

1. The Story Begins

2. Tit for Tat

3. Unity is Strength

4. The Dreamer

5. The Lioness And The Young Fox

6. The Muni And The Young Mouse

7. The Pet Mongoose

8. The Partridge, The Rabbit and The Cat

9. The Painted Jackal

10. The Hollow Drum

11. The Two Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I have been thinking about the stories from the Panchatantra Book-I you read to us." Sharon said one afternoon, "Who did you say wrote the stories? And why did he write those stories?"

"According to the legend the stories were written by Pandit Vishnusharma somewhere between the 3rd Century BC to the 4th Century AD", I replied.  "He actually compiled them for the young princes, the three sons of King Amarshakti, who lived in the North of India. Pandit Vishnusharma organised the stories into five books to instruct the young princes in the conduct that would ensure their worldly success. The princes paid no attention to studies. They found learning boring. Their father, the king, was concerned about them. He asked Pandit Vishnusharma to help educate the young princes."

"Did Pandit Vishnusharma make up these stories himself and compile them in the five books?" Asked Jonathan.

 

"No, he did not make them up himself." I replied, "He based them on still earlier collections of folk tales. It is believed that an Indian Brahman sage, a Buddhist monk, by the name of Bidpai in the 3rd century BC made up the stories. He used them to instruct the people and children on wise conduct of life or nitisahastra through stories, mainly with animal characters. Pandit Vishnusharma collected the folktales made by Bidpai and organised them into five books of PANCHTANTRA, namely, confidence or firmness of mind, creation of prosperity or affluence, earnest endeavour, friendship and knowledge. I told you, PANCH means five, and TANTRA means doctrines of conduct or modes of action. Pandit Vishnusharma wrote the stories in Sanskrit. These stories are also the basis of Aesop's fables."

"What do you mean by fables, teacher?" Asked Sharon.

"The fables are stories written in prose or verse, conveying a universal moral truth. The moral is usually summed up at the end of the story. The characters are usually animals who talk and act like people while retaining animal traits." I replied.

 

"Why did they use animals as characters, Teacher?" Jonathan asked.

"Ancient Indians had recognised the animals' right to co-exist with man and therefore, they were loved, brought up, and even worshipped. Inorder to show the importance of the animals, they were given the status of gods and goddesses. They believed that God the Almighty manifested in different animal forms. In order to instil love for animals among children, animals were made heroes in the stories." I replied.

"That is very interesting," Jonathan replied contemplating.  

"Well then, let us hear more stories from the Panchtantra, Teacher." Sharon said.

"Alright then, if you all have completed your classwork, sit back and I shall read to you stories from Book-II."

 

"We are ready teacher," echoed the class with enthusiasm.

 

"Well, listen then attentively to the stories as I read them for you." I said picking up the book written in simple English, translated from the Hindi story book for children from India, which must have been translated from the original Sanskrit language some time ago. The class sat quietly as I started the stories . . . . .

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Dharam was a rich merchant. He lived happily with his family in a small town of Northern India. He made generous donations to the poor and needy of his town regularly.

Unfortunately, things never remain the same forever. Suddenly one day Dharam made a heavy loss in his business. He had to borrow money, which he could not pay back because his business went from bad to worse. Ultimately, he went bankrupt. Dharam then decided to move to a foreign land and work hard. He therefore, sold off all that he possessed except a weighing scales made of two small iron plates balanced on the either side of a small stick. Heavy iron weights were put on one side and the object to be weighed was placed on the other. It was called tarazoo in Hindi language. It helped to weigh the fruits, meat, grains and many other things. Many shopkeepers still use these weighing scales in place of the weighing machines. 

Before leaving the town, Dharam went to visit Harakh, a merchant friend from the same town who had known him for years.

 

"I am so sorry to hear of your misfortune," said Harakh. "Let me know if I can help you in anyway."

"Well my dear friend, I would be grateful if you could please keep my heavy weighing scales and the weights with you till I return. It belonged to my grandfather and therefore, I cannot bear to sell it, but it is too heavy to carry with me." Dharam said. " Besides I will not need them abroad. I would be very grateful if you kept it in your store room for me."

"No problem, just leave it with me and I shall take good care of it till you return." Harak replied.

That afternoon Dharam left the town with his family, leaving the weighing scales and the weights with his friend, Harakh.

Dharam worked very hard in the foreign country and was able to start a business again. Soon he was successful and his business flourished. He often thought of his little town in India. One day he told his wife and children that he had decided to return back to his country. They were overjoyed. Once again he was back in the town he was born and brought up.

 

Dharam bought a new house and shop, and started his business as before. When he and his family were settled, he remembered his old weighing scales, which he had left with his friend, Harakh.

The two friends exchanged great joy in seeing each other again. Before leaving his friend Harakh's house, Dharam said, " My dear friend, it was very kind of you to keep my weighing scales, but now that I am back, may I have it returned to me! I need it for my business."

"Of course you may, but since it was kept in the store room for so long, it is badly damaged by the mice. I would rather buy you one from the market in place of that old one." Replied Harakh. He made the excuse since he did not wish to return it back as it had been of great use and value to him since Dharam left.

Dharam was shocked at his reply. He stood in great silence, contemplating, and then said, " Well that is very sad, but don't worry. I can buy one for myself. Anyhow, the day is very hot and I would like to swim and bathe in the cool river down the road. I would be grateful if your son would kindly accompany me to the river. I want him to look after my expensive clothes and some priceless jewellery with precious stones, that I am carrying. It is not safe to leave it around unattended, while I am in the river bathing."

 

"Of course not," replied Harakh. He called out to his fifteen-year-old son, Dhanpal and told him to accompany his friend to the river. "Take good care of his precious jewellery, son. Dharam may reward you with some of it at the end, as a gift."

"You don't have to tell me dear father," said the Dhanpal, "I know what has to be done. And he winked at his father with a sparkle in his eyes.

Dharam and the Dhanpal walked down the hill. They came to a spot where there were a few caves besides the river. "This seems to be the right spot for bathing." Said Dharam. He took his shirt off and gave it to Dhanpal saying, " Look here, take this shirt of mine deep into that cave because there are some precious jewellery and stones in the pockets. Wait there till I finish bathing and call you out." As soon as Dhanpal entered the cave Dharam sealed the cave with a big stone. Then he took a bath, and returned home to change into dry clean clothes.

 

When Dhanpal did not return home till late in the evening, Harakh went to Dharam's house and asked him about his son. "When did you return home? Where is my son? I sent him with you this morning to the river?" Asked Harakh worried. Dharam pretended to be sad and replied, " May God save me, friend, I don't know how to say this to you. I am so upset. While both of us were returning from the river, a huge eagle suddenly rushed towards us and before I could do anything, it lifted away your son, and I could not save him."

"What! That cannot be true! I have never heard of the like. You are telling a lie. Where is my son Dharam?" Yelled Harakh. The two started quarrelling and a crowd gathered around them. Harakh was so furious that he hit Dharam on the face.

"Hey! What is the problem? How can two rich and educated merchants fight like wild animals on the road!" Someone said from the crowd.

"Why don't you take the matter to the court instead?" Advised someone else.

 

Dharam and Harakh stopped fighting and agreed to take the matter to the court. They appealed to the judge for justice.

On the day of the hearing, Harakh said with tears in eyes, "My Lord, I am robbed of my only son by this scoundrel."

The judge asked Dharam, " Is this true?"

"Honourable sir, I am not a thief; I'm a respectable merchant. I saw his son being lifted by an eagle with my own eyes." Replied Dharam.

"What do you mean?" Said the judge angrily, " How can an eagle lift away such a healthy young boy of fifteen years of age?"

"My lord, if my iron weighing scales and weights can be damaged by the mice in the store room of Harakh, why can an eagle not lift away a healthy young boy of fifteen?" Replied Dharam in a quiet and calm manner.

 

This made the judge realize that there was more than just the loss of the boy. He asked for the whole story of the weighing scales and the weights in detail and then said, "Well, I agree with you, Dharam, if the mice can damage the iron weighing scales and the weights, then the eagle can definitely lift away a healthy boy of fifteen! Now Harakh, if you want your son back, then you will have to return his weighing scales and weights immediately."

 

Harakh rushed to his house and brought back the iron weighing scales and the weights. He felt a fool in front of the judge and the people at the court. While Dharam quickly went into the cave and fetched the young boy who had by then gone through all the pockets in the shirt and found nothing. He had realized that he had been made a fool of. Both the father and the son quickly disappeared into the house whilst the crowd laughed and made fun of their greedy desires.   

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On a bright sunny day a host of doves decided to fly in search food. They flew over cities and villages till they come to an open space with rich green grass between banyan trees.

"Hey, look down there! I can see some food-grains scattered amongst the grass." Cried the youngest dove in the flock. "I am hungry and tired of flying. Let us get down and enjoy the grains now." And he flapped his wings with joy while trying to descend down to the ground.

"Wait!" Shouted the leader of the flock. "There may be some trap laid down there for us. Why should anyone throw grains for the birds in this isolated area, far from the city and village."

"Stop being suspicious. This must be a picnic area, and someone must have thrown the leftovers." One of the young doves from amongst the flock said.

 

"Let us waste no more time. I am hungry too." Said another dove.

"Well, if you all insist and are so hungry that you do not mind risking your lives, we shall get down to the earth and feast on those grains.", said the leader.

Soon the flock of doves was on the ground enjoying the grains. It tasted great after the long tiring flight and hunger.

"Ah! It tastes so delicious, let us eat to our hearts content before someone comes." said the leader.

And they all ate hurriedly. Suddenly as if from nowhere a net came down on them and they were all trapped under it. "We are caught in a trap! Oh Lord save us!" Cried the flock of doves in great anxiety.

"I told you to be careful, didn't I." said the leader, "Anyway, don't panic. Our freedom is in our hands. Unity is our only hope and strength."

 

The doves were struggling to get out of the net. "How can we save ourselves? Tell us what to do?" they all cried.

"Look, the hunter is coming towards us. Why does he have to catch us? What is he going to do with us?" Panicked the youngest dove.

"Stay calm and let me think fast." said the leader. "The humans catch us for their food. This hunter will sell us into a market place, and people will buy us to kill and eat. Some may keep a few of us as pets in captivity."

Everyone looked distressed and sad while they struggled in vain to escape from the net. They looked helplessly towards their leader who was busy thinking of a way out of the situation.

"I have an idea," the leader said suddenly. "We must all act together. We shall all fly up, carrying the net with us. Remember now, unity is our only hope."

 

Each dove picked up a part of the net in its beak and then, all together, they fluttered their wings and flew up. The hunter stood amazed at the sight of the flying doves with the net. He tried in vain, to chase after them with the hope that the net and the doves would fall down. But the doves flew higher when they saw the hunter running after them. The leader took his companions to the top of a small mountain. The hunter tried to climb over but was soon tired and had to give up his chase.

"This is the strength of unity. See how we defeated even the hunter!" said the leader, pleased with himself. "Now let us fly in the direction of the river."

"But I am very tired." Screamed the youngest dove. "I cannot fly any more."

"Don't worry, I am with you. The strong must protect the weak," replied the leader, "soon I will be old when you grow young and strong. Then you will have to protect me and I will have to depend upon your strength. Stay close to me and I shall protect you with my strength, I shall fly you with me in this net."

Soon they all flew together till they reached the bank of the river. Here they descended with the net and settled on the sands of the river. The leader dove then called out to his mouse-friend living somewhere in that area. His friend, the mouse, recognized his voice and came out of his hole.

"What happened?" He asked, "how have you all managed to escape with the net and all?"

The leader explained the situation to the mouse and then said, " My dear friend, we are entrapped by a cruel hunter. Now only you can save us from our captivity by chewing the net off us."

At once the mouse started chewing the net to free the leader first.

"No," cried the leader, " I don't want to be freed first. Help this weak little dove besides me to be freed first. He is very tired. Then free the others before helping me. I am the leader and these are my followers. As a leader, I have to think of others before my own happiness. My duty is to protect them before I protect myself from any danger."

The mouse cut the net with his sharp teeth and freed all the birds one after another. At last he freed the leader too. They all thanked the mouse and then with a great flapping of wings, they rose in the air and flew away towards their home.

On the way, the little dove said, " Our leader is old but wise. His wisdom saved us today."

 

"No, my dear, your unity proved a great strength and therefore all of us were saved." replied the leader. "Always remember, unity is our greatest strength."     

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Once there was a poor Brahmin who begged for his living. He did not like learning and preferred to beg rather than work. At times he barely had any food to eat. He lived in a small hut made of straw with just a small broken bed to sleep upon and some clay pots to cook and eat in. He cooked his meals on the small fireplace on the floor, and used dried branches of trees from around, as fuel.  

 

One day he was lucky to get a potful of Atta flour. He was overjoyed. He took the pot home and hung it with some ropes over his bed, to protect it from mice and animals. The Brahmin then lay down on the rickety bed with hardly any bedding. As he gazed at the pot of Flour lovingly, his mind was filled with thoughts of all kind.

"It is a shame that I am so poor, I have to beg every day for my food. If only I was rich and had lots of money for food, clothes, and living." He thought. Then he started dreaming.

"The pot is full of flour. It will last me for days. But I shall not use it. I shall keep it. Suppose one day there is a famine. There will be very little flour and food grain for sale in the market. Then I shall take this pot of flour for sale. I will get a very good price for it.

"Flour! Flour for sale!" I will cry.

People will come from everywhere to bid for the flour. "Give me the flour, I shall pay you fifteen rupees, (Indian currency) for it." someone would say. "Give it to me, I shall give you thirty rupees." another will say. "Here is forty rupees. Give it to me, I need it for my family." the third one will say.

 

I will sell the pot of Atta flour to the highest bidder, the man who offered forty rupees for it.

 

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'midi' playing is: "Wind Beneath My Wings"
click here for the words (opens in a new window)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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