Panchtantra has more …


Book of Wisdom

Today, while I was reading Panchtantra I realized that I am ignoring the essence of it. Stories are an integral part of it and so are its discourse and maxim. I have to talk about those little axioms and just tell the stories. It won’t be helpful because those aphorisms carry a lot of meaning. They teach us the general behaviors and characteristics of people and that is what I want to give to my son.

Another mistake that I committed was, I rushed to a conclusion and divided this one book or one section into number of small stories. Estrangement of Friends is one story and it should be taken as one and not as a chapter with many short ones. Although, many stories told by different narrators to different audience at different times, but we should not forget the fact that all the stories move towards one goal. The moral and description of each section is given below. I am repeating that Panchtantra has five sections and each one has lots of axiom I will try to include them in my version of explanation. The brief description* of each section is as follows;

Chapter 1: Loss of Friends, The Lion and the Bull (Mitra Bhedha)

The first chapter deals with the jackal Dimna gaining favor with the lion (pictured as the king of all animals) and climbing the ranks rapidly, and the subsequent plot by the jackal to bring down the bull who also grew very close to the king, out of pure jealousy. The plot succeeds and the bull is murdered by the lion unjustly.

Moral: One must not accuse others falsely, and strive to preserve friendships.

Chapter 2: The Gain of Friends (Mitra Laabha)

One of the original chapters, it is the second chapter in the original book. It tells of the story of the crow who upon seeing the favour the rat performed to free the pigeon and her companions, decides to befriend the rat despite the latter’s initial objections. The storyline evolves as this friendship grows to include the turtle and the fawn. They collaborate to save the fawn when he is trapped, and later they work together to save the turtle, who herself, falls in the trap.

Moral: Friends are an integral part of life.

Chapter 3: The Owl and the Crows (Kākolūkīyam)

The third chapter in the original book, and not unlike chapter 1 deals with deceit and glorifies it to a certain extent as it deals with the crow who pretends to be an outcast from his own group to gain entry into the rival owl group, and by doing so gains access to their secrets and learns of their vulnerabilities. He later summons his group of crows to set fire on all entrances to the cave where the owls live and suffocate them to death.

Moral: Mental strength and deceit are stronger than brute force.

Chapter 4: The Monkey and Alghlim (Labdhapraāśam)

It deals with the artificially-constructed symbiotic relationship between the monkey and the Alghlim. Alghlim risked the relationship by conspiring to acquire the heart of the monkey to heal his wife, the monkey finds out about this and avoids this grim fate.

Moral: One must never betray friends, and should stay vigilant at all times.

Chapter 5: The hermit and the weasel (Aparīkitakāraka)

Originally the last chapter of the book, it deals with hermit who leaves his child with a weasel friend of his, and upon returning and finding blood on the weasel’s mouth, he kills it. He later finds out that the weasel actually defended his son, and killed a snake that attempted to kill the boy.

Moral: One must never rush in making judgments.

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