A couple of years back I had suffered mitrabheda– there was some misunderstanding with a friend and we parted ways. It was somewhat compensated by the mitralabha or the gain of friends that happened due to the flurry of online activities during the lockdown last year. What added to the Corona woes were skirmishes with our neighboring countries who tried to catch us off guard. It was like the fights between the thoughtful crows and the devilish owls (kakaullukiyam). Due to lockdown many people suffered from potential financial loss and also labdhapranasha i.e. the loss of what they had already gained. As mankind was facing a new threat , many causalities last year due to Covid Pandemic could be due to aprikshitakaraka – the result of unexamined actions.
The fans of Panchatantra must have already guessed that the italicized words are the names of five books of Panchatantra compiled by Vishnu Sharma (1200 BC to 300 CE). Even though majority of the contents of each book follow the theme as indicated by the name of the section, there are a number of stories in each book which are not related to the theme. Panchatantra has been widely translated to different languages and made available all over the world.
But coming to its global influence over children’s literature, as usual there is a controversy. One school is of the opinion that Panchatantra influenced the animal fables and children’s literature of the world. The other group of scholars argue that though there are similarities in animal fables of different regions, these might have developed independently. But, on one thing the scholars agree – Panchatantra is the first composed fictional work for children.
So during my childhood, Panchatantra was a staple diet for the mind. It was delivered via the most popular children’s magazine of those days – Chandamama. It is disheartening to note that this magazine that provided so many Indian tales to Indian Children in Hindi, English, Sanskrit and their mother tongues has been discontinued. At the same time it was a pleasant surprise to come across their website where they have put many old issues in different languages. I am not sure if any Indian magazine is published these days for children with exclusive desi content.
There is also controversy as to whether the Panchatantra stories are ethical or not. Well it is rare that there will be no disagreement among a bunch of scholars who come from different backgrounds. First of all why do the scholars from different parts of the globe debate whether the Panchatantra stories are ethical. Ethical standards vary from place to place. Panchatantra stories are basically wisdom stories. Of course wisdom teaches us to be clever when needed but not at the cost of disloyalty to friends or closed ones or indulge in illegal acts.
Wisdom teaches us to be careful when people come and talk negatively about our friends. They may be planting seeds for discord which may lead to mitrabheda. Our ancient seers included ‘friends’ while defining Artha. Friends are assets. Mitralabha is the real gain which may even compensate for the labdhapranasha due to out stupidities. The loss of what had been previously gained is mostly due to greed or stupidity. Whenever there is conflict it is wise to use force only as the last option. This perfectly fits in with the ethos of Indian culture. Lord Krishna forgave the misadventures of Shisupala ninety nine times. Mahabharat war happened after all options at peace had been exhausted. The wise crows of kakullukiyam are better examples than the devilish and shortsighted owls. Finally, many disasters can be avoided by being aware of the consequences of aparikshitakaraka, by rushing into action without due deliberation to examine the issue from various angles.
I am repeating the names of original Sanskrit names of sections to drive home the point that Indians will be better able to connect better. For example mitrabheda is translated into English as ‘loss of friends’. But the word actually indicates that there has been a fissure among friends being influenced by a devilish third party. Bheda means entry through a strong structure. Same way some translated versions have funny titles for section-2 like achievement of friends which may also mean ‘what the friends achieved’ in stead of ‘making new friends’.
Hitopadesha is another work of fables written in Sanskrit. Its content and themes have lots of similarity with Panchatantra. Another fable series which is very very large is Kathasaritsagara. Coincidentally, Kathasaritsagara includes the whole of Panchatantra in one of its books. Its eighteen books indicate that the compiler Somadeva wanted to include all the available legends up to that period and give it an epic proportion to match Mahabharata that too has eighteen books.
This is the alphabet P post of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language and texts. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s spiritual and intellectual heritage. All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.